Zika virus is not very likely to come to South Africa, according to National Institute for Communicable Diseases deputy director Professor Lucille Blumberg. The Institute says it’s highly unlikely the Zika virus will reach South Africa’s shores because of some reasonable points.
It is true that the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which also exists in South Africa, but the mosquito here, however, is slightly different in the sense that it does not like to bite humans or maybe it doesn’t like the taste of South Africans.
“It is not known if it is even able to transmit the virus to humans.
The local aegypti mosquito does not like to bite people, said Blumberg.
Before the disease can actually spread in South Africa, Blumberg elaborated, someone would have to contract Zika in South America or the Caribbean and travel back home and then be bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito here while still infectious. This is highly unlike to happen because the virus lives for only a few days.
“A person is infectious for only a few days and would have to be bitten during a short period of time, making it even more unlikely,” Blumberg said. “The disease would require multiple mosquitoes to be infected before it could spread,” she said. “Zika was first identified in 1947 in Uganda, but has never been recorded further south.”
For instance, five Germans reportedly contracted the virus, but did not spread it because the Aedes aegypti mosquito does not exist in Germany. Denmark’s first case was recorded last week.
However, she warned that pregnant women should not travel to South America or the Caribbean, where the virus is present and very active. There’s a huge outbreak of the virus in some south and central American countries.
Prof. Lucille Blumberg however advises that South Africans travelling to those countries must take the necessary precautions. Also, pregnant women are advised to be particularly careful not to get bitten by the particular mosquito that transmits the virus.
The head of the World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan said the Zika virus had gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions”.
Health officials reported that between 500000 and 1.5million people had been infected in Brazil. The virus has since spread to more than 20 countries in the region.
Brazil has a good number of babies born with neurological damage and smaller than usual heads. These babies are believed to have been deformed after their mothers were infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy.
The Zika virus has rapidly spread to 22 countries in the Americas and has prompted some government bodies to advise women to delay having children. El Salvador recommended women not get pregnant for at least two years.
It has also led to a debate on legalizing abortion in the region, where many countries have strict laws against it. This is particularly difficult in a country like Brazil with majority of Catholic faithfuls.