Ter­ri­fy­ing mosquitos

CityPress - - News -

This week, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama called for ur­gent ac­tion to com­bat it, and Brazil’s pres­i­dent, Dilma Rouss­eff, called for the eradication of the mos­quito that car­ries it. Meet the Zika virus, which causes preg­nant moth­ers to give birth to ba­bies with small heads and un­der­de­vel­oped brains.

The lat­est Zika virus out­break has sparked panic and fear, with the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), which held a spe­cial ses­sion on the out­break this week, say­ing it would prob­a­bly spread across all of North and South Amer­ica. It is al­ready found in 21 of that re­gion’s coun­tries.

Among Zika virus symp­toms are a mild fever, headaches and con­junc­tivi­tis, but its big­gest dan­ger is the one it poses to un­born ba­bies. Since Oc­to­ber, there have been 3 893 re­ported cases of ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly – small cra­ni­ums – in Brazil alone, com­pared with 160 in to­tal in 2014. In the US, 12 cases have been con­firmed.

Now, a num­ber of Cen­tral and South Amer­i­can na­tions have asked women to de­lay fall­ing preg­nant un­til the virus can be brought un­der con­trol.

US sci­en­tists say the virus has “ex­plo­sive pan­demic po­ten­tial” and, in a US med­i­cal jour­nal, called on the WHO to ap­ply the lessons it learnt from the re­cent Ebola out­break in west Africa and con­vene an emer­gency com­mit­tee of dis­ease ex­perts, the BBC re­ported.

Sci­en­tists said that al­though a vac­cine may be ready for test­ing in only two years, it would not be pub­licly avail­able for at least an­other decade.

Staff reporter

PHOTO: REUTERS / UESLEI MARCELINO

NO VAC­CINE Gleyse Kelly holds her in­fant daugh­ter Maria Geo­vana, who has mi­cro­cephaly, this week in Re­cife, Brazil. Health au­thor­i­ties in the Brazil­ian state at the cen­tre of a rapidly spread­ing Zika out­break have been over­whelmed by the alarm­ing surge in cases of ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly, a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der as­so­ci­ated with the mos­quito-borne virus

PHOTO: AP PHOTO / FELIPE DANA

BREED­ING mos­quito lar­vae in a petri dish at the Fiocruz in­sti­tute in Re­cife, Brazil

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