PAHO/WHO puts countries on Zika watch

By Benjamin Flowers

The Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), this week, recommended that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean be on watch for occurrences of the Zika virus, currently rampant in the region.

The warning came on Monday after epidemiological data showed that the number of countries showing confirmed cases had doubled between December 1, 2015 and January 17, 2016; a difference of only eight weeks.

Countries with confirmed cases include: Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela.

“PAHO alert also recommends that countries in the Americas prepare their healthcare facilities to respond to a potential increase in demand for specialized care for neurological syndromes,” the organization said.

PAHO also recommended that countries strengthen prenatal care, and to continue their efforts to reduce the presence of mosquito vectors through effective vector-control strategies and public education campaigns.

The Zika outbreak has recently caused a state of emergency in Brazil, because of the number of babies being born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder which causes new born children to have abnormally small brains.

Up to 2014, Brazil saw no more than 200 cases of microcephaly, however, since the Zika outbreak in 2015, the country has recorded nearly 3,000 cases.

The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito which transmits dengue fever. Currently Belize has had no confirmed cases of Zika, however, with virtually all its neighboring countries showing confirmed cases it is likely Zika will reach Belize some time soon.

Representatives from the vector control department of the Ministry of Health have been unavailable for comment this week.

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