Health experts say millions in Africa face a substantial risk of contracting the dreaded Zika virus. A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Disease reports that a vast number of people in Africa and Asia are at risk of an outbreak of an infection, with countries like Nigeria, India, Indonesia and China most at risk.
The report then goes on to highlight a number of conditions that make those countries especially susceptible to local outbreaks. Some of those conditions include the large population in those countries, the relatively warm climate, an endemic mosquito population and limited health resources.
According to the Medical Express, the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and the University of Toronto said they analysed airline traffic data from 689 cities with commercial airports in South America. They then matched travel destinations of passengers arriving from those cities to Africa to determine which countries face the greatest risk of a potential outbreak.
One of the co-authors of the report, Dr. Kamran Khan of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto said that the study is important because it can help countries most at risk plan an efficient, cost-effective response to a possible outbreak.
An estimated 2.6 billion people live in areas of Africa and Asia-Pacific where local Zika virus transmission is possible, the potential for epidemics in those regions is particularly concerning given that the vast numbers of people who could be exposed to Zika virus are living in environments where health and human resources to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks are limited.
“The impact on populations will also depend heavily on the country’s ability to diagnose and respond to a possible outbreak our findings could offer valuable information to support time-sensitive public health decision-making at local, national, and international levels, Dr. Khan Said.
The study which relied heavily on the data of each country’s spending on health services indicates that populations in Vietnam, Pakistan, the Philippines and Bangladesh are the most vulnerable because of the limited resources available for health services. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a co-author of the study, however, admits that the local population in many of those countries may have developed some resistance over time.
The Zika virus is spread by mosquito bites and can also be transmitted through sexual contact and from mother to child. Previously only thought to cause a mild rash, in recent times doctors have linked the Zika virus to microcephaly in new-born babies.
In May, Africa recorded its first modern case of the Zika virus infection, although the virus is no stranger to Africa where it was indeed first identified in 1947.