Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1282, (11- 17 February 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1282, (11- 17 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

‘We have the mosquito’

While the Zika virus has not reached Egypt, the mosquito that carries the virus is found in two governorates in Upper Egypt, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of Health and Population announced earlier this week that there were no cases of the Zika virus in Egypt. However, the mosquito that transmits the virus is in Al-Minya and Assiut governorates. The insect is called Aedes Aegypti, commonly known as Yellow Fever Mosquito, and its origins lie in Africa.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said that the mosquito exists in very few numbers “so we don’t have any Zika cases”.

“This same mosquito that transfers the Zika disease also transfers dengue and chikungunya, which we have suffered from for hundreds of years. We don’t have any Zika cases because the mosquito must first bite an infected person, then bite a healthy person to transfer the disease to him. We don’t have this infected person in Egypt,” Megahed said.

According to Megahed, the ministry is taking all precautions to prevent the spread of the mosquito in Egypt. “Soon this mosquito will be eradicated as their numbers are radically decreasing,” Megahed added.

Amr Qandil, head of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Department, said that Al-Minya and Assiut governorates are being sprayed twice a day in areas where mosquito larvae and adult insects are found to exterminate them from Egypt. “The origin of this mosquito is not Egypt,” said Qandil. “They mainly exist in South and Central America, in addition to some countries in Africa.”

According to Qandil, this type of mosquito usually lives nearby clean water. “Fortunately, we have swamps, not clean water,” Qandil said sarcastically.

In a statement issued by the ministry, it was confirmed that mosquitoes from the same genus as those in South America do exist in Egypt but that they do not carry the Zika virus, which is not present in the country. The virus, which results in a form of microcephaly (a neurodevelopmental disorder), leads to babies being born with underdeveloped and smaller brains. While microcephaly does exist in Egypt, affecting some children every year, there are currently no signs of the virus.

Qandil warned pregnant women and those who hope to conceive children against travelling to South and Central America.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headaches. The incubation period for the Zika virus is unknown but is likely to be a few days to a week.

The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found for longer periods in some people.

According to a WHO statement, there is no vaccine to prevent or specific medicine to treat Zika. If infected, patients must get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, and take medicine such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain. Patients should not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Qandil reaffirmed that Egypt and east Mediterranean countries are free of the virus. The disease has spread rapidly throughout South America, particularly Brazil, and threatens to spread further. Qandil stressed the necessity of quarantines at airports to check cases coming from countries where the virus is found, in order to detain and examine anyone suspected of carrying the virus.

Since May 2015, the virus has spread to 21 countries and territories in the Americas. The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 among monkeys before it was found to have been transferred to humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania.

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