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Uganda under no threat of Zika virus

Sign post in Ziika forest

Surveillance reports from the ministry of health have found that Uganda, the original host of the Zika virus, is under no threat from the mosquito-borne virus now ravaging South America. 

In a recent statement, the ministry said the virus battering South America is a different species from the one once discovered in Uganda. 

The virus was first isolated in Uganda in April 1947, from a rhesus macaque monkey. The monkey had been placed in a cage in the Zika forest located near Entebbe by scientists of the Yellow Fever Research Institute, now the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). Human infections were later reported in African countries such as the Central African Republic, and parts of Asia.

“Although Uganda has the mosquito species capable of transmitting Zika virus, the mosquitoes are arboreal (forest mosquitoes) and bite at night or at dusk and dawn, mostly in the canopy. People have moved out of the forests by the time they bite,” the statement said.

Additionally, the Ae. aegypti mosquito found in many parts of Uganda, which bites during the day, does not prefer to bite humans, but animals. Owing to this, there is reduced risk of transmission.

The ministry says UVRI has testing facilities for the Zika virus and that the public should remain calm as no cases have been recorded.

Zika virus causes a mild illness in humans known as Zika fever, or Zika disease. Common symptoms include mild headaches, rash, fever, malaise, conjunctivitis and joint pains.

By last Thursday, cases of Zika had been reported in 23 countries, including Brazil, El Salvador, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama and Haiti. The virus is being linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, with pregnant women having babies with birth defects.

ninsiima@observer.ug

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