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Addis Ababa's elevation key in keeping Zika at bay

Tom Frieden (MD), director for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday said that Addis Ababa’s high altitude helps it remain safe from contracting Zika virus.

Speaking to journalists at the US embassy in Addis Ababa, Freiden said that Zika has been a phenomenal outbreak across the globe. The Zika fever also known as Zika virus disease was first discover in Africa in 1947 and as of January 2016 it has occurred in twenty regions of Latin America as Brazil remains to be an epicenter of the outbreak.

According to Freiden, the Zika virus is mainly spreading via mosquito bite and  can be transmitted by sex and blood transfusion. “Since dengue [fever] is caused by such agents in tropical areas, I think it is unlikely to see more risk in places like Addis which is known to have high altitude,” he said. He, however, pointed out that countries should remain alert in emergency preparedness to tackle the outbreak in anyway. “So far, CDC is doing its best in developing reliable immunization and treatment to cure people infected by the virus but a lot more is awaiting ahead,” he said.

Explaining why the disease is a bit a complicated, he said that the symptoms are hard to come by. “Most cases have no symptoms, but when present are usually mild and can resemble dengue fever,” he said. Symptoms generally last less than seven days when there is Zika in the body and this may include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and maculopapular rashes, he stated.

When analyzing its dangerous impact on pregnant women, he said that most babies born from the pregnant woman affected by Zika virus have small head circumference (microcephaly) due to the virus presence in the amniotic fluid and other fluids. Yet, once immunized for Zika one can resists it longer.

According to him, Addis Ababa has not been identified as a place probe to have Zika this time and remains a safe place temporarily. Zika is named after a forest in Uganda where it was discovered. In 1952, the first human cases of Zika were detected and since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in many locations. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases were likely to have occurred and were not reported. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, many cases may not have been recognized.

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil and on Feb 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories. Zika virus will likely continue to spread to new areas.