2.6 bil­lion peo­ple in Zika risk ar­eas

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AT least 2.6 bil­lion peo­ple, over onethird of the global pop­u­la­tion, live in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pa­cific where Zika could gain a new foothold, re­searchers warned, with 1.2 bil­lion at risk in In­dia alone.

Th­ese are peo­ple re­sid­ing in as-yet un­af­fected parts of the world with the right cli­mate and abun­dant mos­qui­toes for the virus to set­tle, spread and prop­a­gate an epi­demic like the one be­set­ting the Amer­i­cas and Caribbean, they said.

“Pop­u­la­tions liv­ing within the ge­o­graph­i­cal range for Zika virus were high­est in In­dia (1.2 bil­lion peo­ple), China (242 mil­lion), In­done­sia (197 mil­lion), Nige­ria (179 mil­lion), Pak­istan (168 mil­lion), and Bangladesh (163 mil­lion),” the study said.

Whether or not the mosquito­borne virus would take off in any of th­ese coun­tries would be de­ter­mined largely by a cru­cial un­known fac­tor: Do the peo­ple there have im­mu­nity?

Spo­radic cases of Zika have pre­vi­ously been re­ported in Africa and Asia, but no­body knows whether they were wide­spread enough for pop­u­la­tions to ac­quire resistance to the virus.

Another mys­tery is whether im­mu­nity to the African Zika strain would of­fer pro­tec­tion against the Asian strain cur­rently in cir­cu­la­tion.

“If Zika im­mu­nity is wide­spread, in­tro­duced Zika will fiz­zle out fast,” Derek Gatherer of Lan­caster Univer­sity said in a com­ment on the study pub­lished in The Lancet In­fec­tious Dis­eases.

“On the other hand, if it en­ters another un­pro­tected pop­u­la­tion, we may see a repeat of what we have al­ready seen in Brazil and other parts of Latin Amer­ica.”

The re­search team used air travel data, maps of mos­quito spread and cli­mate con­di­tions, and in­for­ma­tion on pop­u­la­tion den­sity and health spend­ing to draw up an epi­demi­o­log­i­cal risk model.

Be­nign in most peo­ple, Zika has been linked to a form of se­vere brain dam­age called mi­cro­cephaly which causes new­borns’ heads to be ab­nor­mally small, and to rare adul­ton­set neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems such as Guil­lain-Barre Syn­drome (GBS), which can re­sult in paral­y­sis and death.

In an out­break that started mid2015, more than 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple have been in­fected with Zika in Brazil, and more than 1600 ba­bies born with ab­nor­mally small heads and brains. Seventy coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries have re­ported lo­cal mosquito­borne Zika trans­mis­sion, with Brazil by far the hard­est hit.

Seven­teen coun­tries have re­ported cases of mi­cro­cephaly or other central ner­vous sys­tem mal­for­ma­tions in ba­bies, and eigh­teen sig­nalled an in­crease in GBS, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

There have also been rare cases of per­son-to-per­son sex­ual trans­mis­sion in some coun­tries.

In­dia was par­tic­u­larly at risk, the team found. China re­ceived many times more trav­ellers per year from Zika-af­fected parts of the Amer­i­cas, but spent more on health­care. –

Photo: EPA

An In­done­sian health of­fi­cial mon­i­tors a ther­mal scan­ner at Soekarno-Hatta air­port in Tangerang, Jakarta. In­done­sia is mon­i­tor­ing trav­ellers com­ing from Sin­ga­pore for Zika. At least 215 cases of peo­ple in­fected with the virus have been found in Sin­ga­pore with most of them in­volv­ing lo­cal trans­mis­sion of the mos­quito borne dis­ease.

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