Zika virus: Pregnant women warned against travelling to Uganda

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By  LILIAN NAMAGEMBE

KAMPALA- The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines advising pregnant women against travelling to Uganda as a classified Zika-Infected country, with a potential of pausing birth defects to unborn babies.

The Zika virus which is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and sex, is particularly said to increase pregnancy risks like miscarriage, still birth and Microcephaly in infants whose mothers were exposed in early pregnancy.

 Microcephaly is a condition that causes a baby’s head to be smaller than normal and not fully developed. The new-born is also likely to have intellectual disability, speech delay; seizure and abnormal muscle functionality in severe cases are the common symptoms.

“Based on available evidence, WHO has issued no general restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and /or territories with Zika virus transmission. However, WHO is advising pregnant women not to travel to Zika –affected areas in categories 1 and 2 in the country classification table,” a statement on the WHO website reads in part.

However, the ministry of Health in Uganda has never come out to address or inform the public about the development and how expectant mothers can prevent their unborn babies from long-lasting birth effects.

Efforts to get a comment from Ministry of Health as our repeated calls for the last five days to the top officials went unanswered.

Dr Diana Atwine the ministry permanent secretary referred the matter to Dr Henry Mwebesa the acting director General who did not pick our repeated calls.

Dr Ruth Aceng the Health Minister did not pick her calls for days and neither did she respond to our WhatsApp messages even when they indicated she had read them.

Countries classifies in category 1 are those which fall under areas with new introduction of Zika virus since 2015 or areas where the virus has been re-introduced, with on-going transmission.

The countries include Angola, Guinea Bissau, Argentina, Cuba, British Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago among others.

On the other hand, countries classified under Category 2 where Uganda falls are those which are either with evidence of Zika virus circulation before 2015 or with ongoing transmission and may also experience an outbreak of Zika.

Other countries listed under this category include; Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’ivore, Gabon, Nigeria, Senegal , Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia , Costa Rica ,Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica  and Mexico among others.

In adults, Zika fever, also known as Zika virus disease or simply Zika, an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus has no symptoms, but when present, they are usually mild including; fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash.

Residents in other countries that the Daily Monitor managed to reach have also confirmed that indeed, some expectant mothers have been denied Visas to travel from countries like Belgium in Western Europe to Uganda over the same.

The Zika name comes from the Ziika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. Zika virus is also related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses.

Monitor.co.ug

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