WHO Confirms Zika Virus Strain from Brazil in Africa

In a statement released on 20th May, 2016, the World Health Organisation has indicated that tests show an outbreak of Zika virus in Cape Verde. The virus is said to be of the same strain as the one responsible for causing birth abnormalities in Brazil.

According to WHO’s Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, “The findings are of concern because it is further proof that the outbreak is spreading beyond South America and is on the doorstep of Africa.”

There had been 7, 557 suspected cases in Cape Verde as of May 8th, 2016. The Island is known for its historical ties with Brazil which sees the country experiencing a lot of travel to it from Brazil and Europe.

It remains to be seen if Africans have immunity to the Asian Zika virus responsible for birth defects seeing that a different strain of the virus known to only cause mild symptoms has been present in parts of Africa for decades.

Moeti added that strict travel restrictions as a way of curbing further spread of Zika virus in Africa were not necessary at the moment. Instead, focus should be on controlling mosquito populations and protecting people from their bites.

The findings are expected to fuel increased surveillance as well as public education on how to protect themselves from mosquito bites and sexual transmission.

Zika Virus Origin in Africa

The Zika virus origin is traced back to Africa where it was first identified in monkeys found in Zika forest, Uganda in 1947.

Zika virus mosquito image

An image from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showing a female Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for the spread of Zika virus.

The first human case would only be discovered later on in 1954 in Nigeria. The virus is spread by a day time active mosquito and so far there has been no breakthrough in finding drug treatments or vaccines.