Paidamoyo Chipunza Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE’s risk of having the Zika virus, which is spreading “explosively” in Brazil and has to date affected 23 countries from parts of Africa, the Americas, Europe, the Pacific and Asia, is low, but the country cannot afford to be complacent. Disease prevention and epidemiology director Dr Portia Manangazira said yesterday that considering high international travel and trade, it was possible for the virus to spread as people travel. “As part of the increasingly small global community due to international travel and trade, we can’t be complacent because as people travel diseases also travel with them,” said Dr Manangazira.
The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, which normally carry parasites, not viruses. “We know little about this virus, so we’ve a lot of learning to do,” said Dr Manangazira. “From what we hear, the virus is carried by culex or aedex mosquitoes or both and here in Zimbabwe, we have culex mosquitoes.”
Dr Manangazira said from information they have on malaria – which is caused by parasites carried by the anopheles mosquito – a human being can actually transmit the parasite to a malaria causing mosquito which will in turn spread the virus to more human beings.
She said scientists have also proven that mosquitoes can also travel in aeroplanes. “Considering all these facts, we continue to urge our people travelling to the affected areas or those returning from the affected areas to observe the usual precautionary measures,” said Dr Manangazira.
“Our aim is to break the human-mosquito interface, and that can be done by using proven mosquito prevention methods such as repellents, sleeping under a treated mosquito net, wearing long sleeved clothes and avoiding mosquito breeding sites such as stagnant water, garbage and tall grass.”