Scientists: No Evidence of Zika Virus in Kenya

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Scientists in Kenya say they haven’t seen any evidence of the Zika virus in the country, but insist nations everywhere need to be on alert.

Kenyan scientists are on the lookout for any suspected cases of the virus, which is being linked to underdeveloped newborns in Brazil and other parts of South America. Medical researchers in Kenya have said there is no need to panic over an outbreak, but emphasised the importance of preemptive measures.

 

Everywhere at risk

Dr Rosemary Sang of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) told Nation that the “risk is very much everywhere,” despite moving to calm fears over an outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared a global emergency related to the spread of Zika and a condition it’s believed to cause in newborns, leading to underdeveloped brains. Since October 4,000 cases of microcephaly – the condition linked to the Zika virus – have been confirmed in Brazil alone.

WHO has put Zika in the same category as the Ebola virus as a global concern, but the emphasis remains on preemptive measures by countries around the world.

“We will advise accordingly if we discover Zika Virus and the vectors (mosquitoes) transmitting it,” Dr Sang told Nation. “However, as it is, the level of risk has not yet been established. We haven’t seen any activity of the virus,” she said.

 

Challenges ahead

There are numerous challenges facing global health organisations with the growing threat of Zika. First of all, only a small minority of people show symptoms after contracting the virus – roughly 20-25%, depending on which source you go by. And, even then, the symptoms are very similar to dengue and yellow fever, which are also spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes that carry Zika.

Mosquitoes aren’t the only carriers, though, and numerous cases of sexual transmission between humans have been recorded. And, much like dengue fever, there is no preventative vaccine or medication; you simply have to avoid getting bitten or otherwise infected.

This presents a number of challenges across African countries, where labs that can test for the virus are scarce.

 

Featured image:

By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE – Asian Tiger Mosquito (Stegomyia albopicta) male, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40724250