The mosquito-borne Zika virus has gotten out of control according to The World Health Organization (WHO). The organization officially upgraded the virus to an international emergency as of today Feb. 1 citing the explosive spread of the Zika virus in the Americas as an “extraordinary event” and a “public health emergency of international concern.” Eturbonews broke the story this morning saying that according to the officials, an international health emergency was primarily declared due to ‘cluster of microcephaly and neurologic disorders’ and possible connection to Zika virus. The last such public health emergency was declared for the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people.
The situation is so dire that some cruise lines are waiving cancellation fees for pregnant women (who are particularly vulnerable for the mosquito-borne virus because it can cause brain damage to the fetus). In earlier reports this Examiner explained that according to eturbonews, Australian virologists say the mosquito-borne Zika virus, linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, has already been discovered in Australia in travelers returning from South America. The virus detected in some tourists returning from South America and has been linked to brain damage in babies in Brazil.
Authorities are urging pregnant women to delay travel where there are outbreaks. So far only one such mosquito is present in Australia — the Aedes aegypti mosquito — which is found only in far north Queensland but the Australian Foreign ministry has issued a warning for travel to 22 countries affected by the virus, including many in South and Central America, and the Pacific island nation Samoa. This advisory advice comes on the heels of a warning by the World Health Organisation that Zika virus is now likely to spread to all countries in South, Central and North America except Canada and Chile.
Brazil’s Health Ministry (see video) said in November that Zika was linked to a fetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains. About 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil more than 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1 to 2 per cent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
If you are pregnant or plan to be it’s best to avoid those afflicted areas. However if you do venture to infested lands be sure to apply lots of insect repellent, cover up arms and legs and keep doors to cabins and hotel rooms shut.