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WHO: Zika outbreak will ‘get WORSE before it gets better’

The Zika outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better, the head of the World Health Organization has warned.

Director general Margaret Chan made the comments at the end of her two-day visit to Brazil, the country at the epicenter of the Zika crisis.

Her stark warning came as the first cases were reported in the Czech Republic today.

‘Things may get worse before they get better,’ Ms Chan said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.

‘Don’t be surprised to see microcephaly reported in other parts of Brazil.’

As yet, Brazil’s Zika outbreak has been concentrated in the northeastern part of the nation.

Much remains unknown about Zika, including whether the virus actually causes microcephaly, a condition marked by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

Ms Chan underscored that scientists are still working to determine causality between the virus and the birth defect.

Today, the WHO also said that while Zika has been detected in breast milk from two mothers, there have been no reports of Zika being transmitted to babies via breastfeeding.

It said the benefits of breastfeeding for the infant and mother ‘outweigh any potential risk of Zika virus transmission through breast milk’.

Brazil said this week it has confirmed more than 580 cases of microcephaly, and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

Brazil is investigating more than 4,100 additional suspected cases of microcephaly.

After Brazil, Colombia has been hardest hit by Zika infections with the country’s health officials reporting on Wednesday a probable case of microcephaly possibly linked to Zika in an aborted foetus.

Colombia has reported more than 37,000 cases of Zika including 6,356 in pregnant women but has yet to have a confirmed microcephaly case linked to the virus.

At least 34 countries, mostly in the Americas, have active Zika outbreaks and the virus is expected to spread.

The WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency on February 1, citing a ‘strongly suspected’ relationship between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly.

Scientists are also studying a potential link between Zika infection and Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological disorder that can weaken the muscles and cause paralysis.

Today, it was confirmed that two Czechs returning from separate trips to the Caribbean have been diagnosed with Zika.

Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek the virus had been detected in a man returning from Martinique and in a woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic.

Their conditions do not require hospitalisation, he said.

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was looking into 14 suspected cases of the virus.

In two of the reported cases, the infection has been confirmed in women whose only known risk factor was sexual contact with an ill male partner.

In both cases the male partner had recently traveled to an area where the Zika virus is present, the agency said.

The CDC said they are still waiting for testing to be completed on the male partners.


Feb 26, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated January 21, 2018 at 12:31 AM
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