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WHO warns Zika virus likely to spread in Asia-Pacific

There have been more than 400 Zika cases detected in Singapore, while Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have reported fewer than 20 each. Photograph: (Getty)

WION Manila, NCR, Philippines Oct 10, 2016, 01.10 PM (IST)

The World Health Organization on Monday warned that the deadly Zika virus could spread through Asia next, with hundreds of cases reported in Singapore and two Thai babies diagnosed with Zika-linked microcephaly.

A report of the world health body released at its annual regional meeting in Manila said the mosquito-borne virus "was highly likely to further spread in the Asia-Pacific region."

"It is highly likely that the region will continue to report new cases and possibly new outbreaks of Zika," the report added.

WHO director for health security and emergencies Li Ailan said the virus detected in 70 countries worldwide included at least 19 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

There have been more than 400 Zika cases detected in Singapore, while Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have reported fewer than 20 each.

Authorities have expressed concern over the outbreak, increasing surveillance, preparing responses to complications and collaborating on information about the disease.

WHO director Margaret Chan said experts were still grappling with ways to tackle the scourge as "unfortunately, scientists did not yet have answers to many critical questions." 

She said other questions included why the first signs of the virus's existence in the Asia-Pacific region came from travelers whose infections were confirmed once they returned home.

"Is this weak surveillance an indication of population-wide immunity, or proof that the virus has somehow acquired greater epidemic potential?" she asked.

Although the symptoms from the virus are mild and no deaths have been reported globally, certain complications like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome have been noted. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)
 

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