Two billion at risk of Zika Virus in Africa and Asia

More than two billion people could be at risk from Zika virus outbreaks in parts of Africa and Asia, according to scientists writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Populations in India, Indonesia and Nigeria are some of the most vulnerable to transmission, the researchers said.

They used data on air traveller numbers to help model their predictions.

However, they acknowledge that immunity to the virus could already exist in some areas and could reduce the risk.

The research team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and the University of Toronto, Canada, said “vast numbers” of people were living in environments where it would be hard to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.

The Lancet – Potential for Zika virus introduction and transmission in resource-limited countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region: a modelling study

An estimated 2.6 billion people live in areas of Africa and the Asia-Pacific region where the presence of competent mosquito vectors and suitable climatic conditions could support local transmission of Zika virus. Countries with large volumes of travellers arriving from Zika virus-affected areas of the Americas and large populations at risk of mosquito-borne Zika virus infection include India (67 422 travellers arriving per year; 1.2 billion residents in potential Zika transmission areas), China (238 415 travellers; 242 million residents), Indonesia (13 865 travellers; 197 million residents), Philippines (35 635 travellers; 70 million residents), and Thailand (29 241 travellers; 59 million residents).

Many countries across Africa and the Asia-Pacific region are vulnerable to Zika virus. Strategic use of available health and human resources is essential to prevent or mitigate the health, economic, and social consequences of Zika virus, especially in resource-limited countries.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh could be particularly vulnerable to a Zika outbreak because of their limited health resources.

More than 65 countries and territories now have continuing Zika transmission.
The infection, spread by mosquito bites, reached Africa recently.
Singapore is dealing with the first outbreak of the virus in Asia and recently pregnant women with symptoms in the city-state were advised to be tested for the virus.

SOURCES- BBC News, The Lancet