Risk of Zika virus infection in Bangladesh is low as the countries affected by the mosquito-borne disease are far away, an expert said here yesterday.
“If the virus has to spread in Bangladesh, active case of Zika infection has to come here. Not many people are coming here from those countries [South America],” said Prof Mahmudur Rahman, director at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
The Zika virus spreads through aedes mosquitoes, and the mosquitoes' peak reproduction time here is during the rainy season, not now, he told The Daily Star.
Besides, authorities here have good surveillance and testing systems to detect the disease, if ever found, Prof Mahmudur said.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US.
In May last year, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil.
In Brazil, Zika has been linked, although not definitively so, to 4,000 cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads, raising global fears about a virus that was previously considered relatively benign.
At least 20,297 cases of Zika virus were confirmed in Colombia, including 2,116 pregnant women, making it the second most affected country after Brazil.
Amid alarm over the surge in microcephaly cases, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have even warned women to delay conceiving until the Zika outbreak is brought under control, reports AFP.
Jitters over Zika have spread far beyond the affected areas to Europe and North America, where dozens of cases have been identified among people returning from vacation or business abroad.
IEDCR Director Mahmudur said though risk of Zika virus infection in Bangladesh is low, measures to destroy shelters and reproduction facilities for aedes mosquitoes are the best ways to prevent Zika.
“The IEDCR has the technology to test Zika virus. So, for now, there is no reason for worries,” he said.
According to the WHO, Zika virus disease usually requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines.
If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available, it says.