Take steps to prevent Zika virus in Middle East: WHO

Abu Dhabi, Feb 1 (IANS/WAM) As the Zika virus outbreak continues to spread — reaching 24 countries in the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on governments in the Middle East to work together to keep the region protected.

“No cases of the virus have been reported so far in this region, but this type of mosquito exists in several countries here, so it is essential that government leaders take steps to prevent the virus from spreading if travellers returning from affected countries are infected with the virus,” WHO Regional Director Ala Alwan said on Sunday.

Because of current non-availability of specific treatment or vaccine, the best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.

To protect people living in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Alwan urged all countries to enhance surveillance for early detection of Zika virus infection, particularly among travellers returning from countries where the virus is currently circulating.

WHO is working globally to support countries where the disease has been detected to help understand the potential link between the virus and birth defects, to reduce the international spread of the disease and to help expedite the development of a vaccine or treatment for Zika virus disease.

At this point in time, WHO does not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade but this decision will be reviewed regularly, the report said.

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