Bostonian who traveled overseas is first Mass. Zika case

The World Health Organization will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on the alarming spike in Zika virus cases.

Canadian travellers visiting affected areas are being encouraged to protect themselves against Zika virus by preventing mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets, screened doors and windows. Modeling combining that fact with the known dynamics of dengue fever suggests that over a one-year period between three and four million people could be infected with Zika.

Brazil, which hosts the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, has been hit hardest by the outbreak, with more than 1 million cases reported.

Zika rarely causes serious illness and only one-fifth of those infected experience symptoms.

Dr Vanessa Van Der Linden, the neuro-pediatrician who first recognised and alerted authorities over the microcephaly crisis in Brazil, measures the head of a two-month-old baby with microcephaly in Recife, Brazil.

She says the cleanup operation began Friday at all installations run by the armed forces and at all federal educational, health and other facilities.

An emergency meeting to decide whether or not to declare the situation a public health emergency is scheduled for Monday.

The spread of the virus in Brazil has coincided with a sharp increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. There’s no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Pregnant women in particular are being advised to stay covered up outdoors in the event of risking mosquito bites.

Zika, a mosquito-transmitted virus, has been linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil.

“A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established, but is strongly suspected”, World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan said at a press conference where she said the level of alarm over the virus has become “extremely high”.

Although there have been a handful of people in USA who have tested positive for the virus, doctors say it’s only a concern for pregnant women.

But a Zika vaccine will not be widely available “even in the next few years”, Fauci added, although a preliminary safety trial of one of the experimental vaccines may start before the end of the year.

However, Schuchat emphasized that the main health concern at this point is for pregnant women who are exposed to the virus.

Twenty cases are now all across the United States of the mosquito-borne virus called Zika.

In the U.S., no local transmission of the virus has been documented yet – so far it has only been diagnosed in people who’ve recently traveled to places where it is being transmitted locally. “We need to get some answers, quickly”.

Although health officials view a US outbreak of Zika as likely, the United States enjoys certain advantages that should keep such an outbreak limited to a small area, Schuchat said. In addition, there is a lack of natural immunity in newly affected regions and the potential for further global spread given the abundance of mosquitos around the world.

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