Daily Management Review

Virologists say Zika Virus Found In Australian Travellers Returning from South America


Virologists say Zika Virus Found In Australian Travellers Returning from South America
Australian travelers returning from South America have been found to carry with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil,, say Australian virologists.
However the right species of mosquito to act as a vector is required for the virus to spread.
What is encouraging is that at present only one such mosquito is believed to be present in Australia — the Aedes aegypti mosquito —found only in far north Queensland.
Plans of traveling to 22 countries affected by the virus, including many in South and Central America, and the Pacific island nation Samoa have been advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be reconsidered by Australians, especially those women who are pregnant.
Recently the World Health Organisation had issued a warning that Zika virus is now likely to spread to all countries in South, Central and North America except Canada and Chile and the new travel advice comes in response this warning.
Zika was linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains, Brazil's Health Ministry had said in November.
the WHO said last Friday that 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly had been reported by Brazil. This number is more than 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1 to 2 per cent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
Despite a woman falling ill with the virus in Brazil later gave birth to a brain-damaged baby in Hawaii, Zika has not yet been reported in the continental United States.
The very little scientific data on Zika virus makes it unclear why it might be causing microcephaly in Brazil.
The virus has historically occurred in parts of Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands and is known to be only a mild disease. The virus was first found in a monkey in the Zika forest near Lake Victoria in Uganda in 1947.
Scientists did not know whether any other mosquitoes in Australia could be potential vectors, professor Dominic Dwyer, a virologist from Sydney's Westmead Hospital said.
"There have been some people who have come back to Australia who've had Zika virus infection. But what we haven't had is evidence of the spread of the infection from one person to another in this country. The main mosquito carriers of the virus are not present to any great degree in Australia, except perhaps up in the top end of Queensland," he said.
However the scientists are not sure about whether some of the Australian mosquitoes could carry Zika virus.
Despite this fact Professor Dwyer says that serious considerations about the virus need to be taken in Australia.
"When you get a virus go into a population where the people aren't immune, then you often get very rapid spread. So for example over the last decade there have been a number of islands in the Pacific that have had explosive outbreaks of Zika virus infection, as well as others like Chikungunya virus,” he said.