ISLAMABAD: There is no threat of the Zika virus in Pakistan, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), thus putting to rest increasing concerns in the country about the virus which reportedly caused birth defects such as microcephaly.There is no need to panic, said a statement jointly issued by the WHO and the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS).

The statement said that the WHO and NHS had not recommended any travel or international trade restrictions. NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh told Dawn that there was no evidence that the virus had ever travelled to Pakistan. He said that not a single case of the Zika virus had been confirmed in the country, adding the situation was being monitored following reports of Zika cases in Latin America.

“There is no potential threat of the virus which belongs to the dengue family,” he said, adding that it required the same measures which were taken for dengue which was already being done. According to an official statement issued by the ministry on Friday, pregnant women have the same risk of getting infected as the rest of the population. Transmission from the mother to the child during the pregnancy or at the time of delivery has not been proven as yet.

“The Zika fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by the Zika virus (ZIKV), which manifests itself with moderate fever, skin rash, headaches, joints and muscle pain or soreness, fatigue, red eyes. ZIKV is a close parent of the dengue virus and is transmitted by the same mosquito, the Aedes Aegypti,” the statement said.

“Given the closeness between Zika and dengue, the collective and individual prevention measures for both viruses are identical. Any effective action against dengue is an equally effective action against Zika,” the statement said.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2016

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