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Zika may be ‘under-diagnosed’ in SEA; WHO in crisis mode

Excerpt From TODAY-Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Sydney/Geneva (AGENCIES)

Infectious disease experts have warned that the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly worldwide, is likely under-diagnosed in South-east Asia, even as a report indicates mosquito bites may not be the only form of transmission.

This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency committee yesterday to debate whether a Zika Virus outbreak suspected of causing a surge in birth defects in South America should be considered a global health emergency.

According to a report published in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, an Australian man was diagnosed with acute Zika virus in May 2015, five days after he was bitten by a monkey at Bali’s Ubud Monkey Forest.  He was also bitten by mosquitoes.  Although mosquito-spread transmission was possible, the report said the monkey bite could also be a possible source of transmission….

Although the mosquito-borne virus’ symptoms are relatively mild, it is believed to be linked to a surge in cases of microcephaly, a devastating condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Brazil, the hardest hit country, sounded the alarm in October, when a rash of microcephaly cases emerged in the north-east.  Since then, there have been 270 confirmed cases of microcephaly and 3,448 suspected cases, up from 147 in 2014….

There is currently no treatment, and the WHO has said it would likely take more than a year to develop a vaccine.