Zika Likely Headed|to Parts of Europe Next

     (CN) — The Zika virus could spread throughout Europe as the weather gets warmer, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
     Local transmission of the mosquito-borne virus has been occurring for about a year in Latin America and the Caribbean, but the risk of an outbreak in Europe is low. Areas that have Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes — the only known species of mosquitoes that transmit Zika — are most at risk.
     “While the risk of a Zika virus disease outbreak varies from country to country, the risk in the European region should not be underestimated. The likelihood that Zika virus will spread in countries where Aedes mosquitoes are present is high or moderate,” the WHO said.
     Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not commonly found in Europe, but they have been discovered on Madeira Island, off the coast of Africa, and the northeastern Black Sea coast.
     Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are present in 18 nations within the European region. While they have been proven to transmit Zika, the Aedes aegypti species has shown a greater capacity to transmit arboviruses — viruses transmitted by insects — including Zika.
     Nations that face a “moderate likelihood” of local transmission include France, Italy, Israel and Spain.
     The likelihood of local transmission is based on factors that include shipping and air connectivity, population density, climatic suitability for the mosquitoes, urbanization and history of previous outbreaks of by insects or other animals.
     “We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said.
     While mosquito bites are the most common way Zika is transmitted, the virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. Only about 20 percent of people with the virus ever experience symptoms, which makes it difficult for a person to know if he or she is infected.
     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in April that Zika is connected to microcephaly, a congenital disorder that leads to babies born with reduced head size and potential brain damage. Subsequent studies have also strengthened evidence of the link between Zika and microcephaly.
     The virus has also been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome and several other serious health conditions.
     An elderly man in Puerto Rico died after contracting the virus.
     The WHO declared Zika an international public emergency in February.

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