Officials with the World Health Organization are concerned that sequencing data are showing that Zika virus is “on the doorstep of Africa.”
Sequencing of the virus in Cabo Verde by Institut Pasteur, Dakar confirms that the Zika virus currently circulating in Cabo Verde is the same as the one circulating in the Americas – the Asian type – and was most likely imported from Brazil. This is the first time that the Zika strain responsible for the outbreaks linked to neurological disorders and microcephaly has been detected in Africa.
“The findings are of concern because it is further proof that the outbreak is spreading beyond South America and is on the doorstep of Africa. This information will help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said in a prepared statement from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Officials are urging heightened risk communication to pregnant women to raise awareness of complications associated with the Asian type of Zika virus and promote protection steps to avoid mosquito bites as well as sexual transmission. In addition, countries should increase their surveillance for Zika transmission and congenital malformations, such as microcephaly, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Activated since February 2016, WHO Zika Virus Disease Incident Management System in Brazzaville and at Headquarters will continue to review existing risk assessments, increase surveillance, and assess laboratory testing capacity and support community engagement and risk communications in priority countries.
As of earlier this month, there have been 7557 suspected cases of Zika in Cabo Verde. Three cases of microcephaly have been reported from Cabo Verde with one case reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after being delivered in the United States. So far, no case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) has been reported from Cabo Verde.