Risk of Zika spreading in Europe extremely low: WHO

Geneva, Jan 30 (IANS) Despite the Zika virus continuing to spread in the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that during the winter, the risk of Zika virus transmission in Europe was extremely low.

Since May 2015, Zika virus disease, an emerging viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitos, has spread in the Americas and the Caribbean, following the reporting of the first cases in Brazil, according to Xinhua.
WHO said the arrival of the virus has been associated with steep increases in babies born with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome. A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established, but is strongly suspected.
According to the UN health agency, the risk of Zika-infected travellers entering Europe is increasing. Imported cases have been reported in several European countries.
While Aedes mosquitoes are present in several European countries, especially in the Mediterranean area, the current climatic conditions are not suitable for their activity.
However, with the onset of spring and summer, the risk of Zika virus transmission in Europe will grow, as mosquitoes find better breeding grounds in warmer climates.
WHO said European countries should be ready to detect and manage Zika infection in travellers from affected countries.
European countries can use their experience with dengue and chikungunya to control these mosquitoes.
The global health organisation advised countries in the region to strengthen vector control, surveillance and laboratory detection of the Zika virus and neurological complications, as well as communications with those at risk. This will help decrease the presence of Aedes mosquitoes and in turn the risk of Zika spreading in Europe.
WHO will convene an emergency committee meeting to discuss the Zika virus next Monday to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO said the main concern of the emergency committee was not Zika, but the connection between Zika and microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barrre syndrome.