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Health minister Adewole Isaac

Zika virus-carrying mosquitoes now in Nigeria — Health minister confirms

Health minister Adewole Isaac
Health minister Adewole Isaac

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has disclosed that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are in Nigeria and urged Nigerians to protect themselves by using mosquito nets.

He also called on Nigerians to remain calm, be vigilant and report any suspected case of an acute febrile illness in pregnant women, in particular, to any nearest health facility.

Adewole made this disclosure at a press briefing, Thursday, in Abuja, where he explained that the mosquitoes were active and flying, adding that they bite during the day and early morning.

“Nigerian scientists working in Western Nigeria in 1954 discovered Zika virus in Nigeria. Further studies in the years 1975 to 1979 showed that 40 per cent of Nigeria adults and 25 per cent of Nigerian children have antibodies to Zika virus, meaning they are protected against this virus.

“Despite the fact that some Nigerians are immune to the Zika virus infection as demonstrated by previous studies, it is important and advisable that Nigerians should be careful and protect themselves from mosquito bites.

“There is no vaccine for Zika virus, and no cure other than rest, plenty of fluids and perhaps over-the-counter medication to reduce fevers, aches and pains as previously mentioned. This, therefore, means that prevention is most effective means of preventing transmission.

“I advise all Nigerians, particularly pregnant women, to avoid travelling to countries infected by this virus in these periods. If however, you are to visit any country where Zika virus is now being actively transmitted, you are advised to protect yourselves from mosquito bites.

“Pregnant women considering travel to affected areas may wish to consult their health-care provider prior to travel and after return. They should also practice personal and household steps to prevent mosquito, including putting mosquito repellent on their clothes and skin, wear long sleeves and pants, and sleep underneath mosquito nets at night, where possible,” the minister.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already alerted that the Zika virus is spreading at an alarming rate.

Speaking at an emergency committee convened, in January, to discuss the spread of the Zika virus, which is linked to thousands of birth defects in Latin America, the global health body described the spread as “explosive”.

“Last year the disease was detected in the Americas, where it is spreading explosively,” Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, said at a special briefing in Geneva. It was “deeply concerning” that the virus has now been detected in more than 20 countries in the Americas, she added.

The spread of the virus has prompted governments across the world to advise pregnant women against going to the areas where it has been detected.

Chan said: “The level of alarm is extremely high. Arrival of the virus in some cases has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads.”

There is no vaccine or cure for Zika, which has been linked to microcephaly, a serious condition that can cause lifelong developmental problems.

“A causal relationship between Zika virus and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established – this is an important point – but it is strongly suspected,” Chan said.

“The possible links have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming as it places a heartbreaking burden on families and communities.”

Chan outlined four reasons for alarm: “First, the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes. Second, the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector. Third, the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas. Fourth, the absence of vaccines.”

This year’s El Niño weather patterns mean mosquito populations are expected to spread, Chan added.

“For all these reasons, I have decided to convene an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations.”

The committee will meet on Monday and will advice on the international responses and specific measures in affected countries and elsewhere.

Since September, Brazil has registered nearly 4,000 cases of babies with microcephaly.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff pledged to wage war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the virus, focusing on getting rid of the insect’s breeding grounds.

The WHO’s leadership admitted last April to serious missteps in its handling of the Ebola crisis, which was focused mostly on three west African countries and killed more than 10,000 people.

Some critics have said the WHO’s slow response played a major role in allowing the epidemic to balloon.

Zika is related to yellow fever and dengue. An estimated 80% of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.

About Global Patriot Staff

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