ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) Saira Afzal Tarar on Thursday denied the presence of Zika mosquitoes in Pakistan, contradicting the statement of a leading member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) who had said carrier mosquitoes had been found in Pakistan.

On Thursday, local media had quoted GOARN member Najeeb Durrani as saying Zika mosquitoes had been found in Pakistan, and that the body had asked authorities to prepare a strategy in case the disease took roots in the country.

But Ms Tarar, talking to Dawn.com on Thursday, said no such report had surfaced, adding that the health ministry had so far found no evidence of Zika mosquitoes in the country.

She did however say that the Zika and dengue mosquitoes are very similar to each other and that precautionary measures for the prevention and control of the potential spread of the Zika virus were being undertaken.

Ms Tarar said so far the virus had been confirmed in Latin America only, adding that the “World Health Organisation had issued no travel advisory for Pakistani athletes travelling to Brazil for special Olympics.”

“In a meeting with WHO officials, we asked them to give us tips to test the virus,” the minister remarked, adding that such tips will help tackle problems at the onset.

Zika is a virus that is spread through the bite of Aedes Aegypti mosquito which also causes dengue and chikungunya. This virus causes microcephaly. Children, in such cases, are born abnormal with a small brain and big eyes.