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Zika in Ecuador – What you need to know

Monday, 01 February 2016 00:00

Today, 1st February 2016, the World Health Organisation has declared that the Zika virus poses a global public health emergency requiring a united response. It has been detected in a number of countries across the Americas in recent months.

Zika is a virus spread by the Aedes mosquitoes. If this mosquito bites a person with the Zika virus, it can then infect subsequent people that it bites.

It is thought that only one in five people infected actually develop symptoms which can include mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headaches and joint pain.

Although there is still no proven link between Zika and microcephaly (when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, something which normally affects around 25,000 children a year in the USA), there is a concern that the virus may have an affect on the development of babies in the womb.

Due to this suspected risk, pregnant women are being advised by the WHO to avoid travel to affected areas.

Where are the current affected areas in Ecuador?

In Ecuador to date there have been 22 confirmed cases and 67 suspected cases, mainly restricted to the tropical COASTAL regions of the country. The Ministry of Health are adopting measures to prevent Zika from intensifying in Ecuador through fumigation and the control of mosquito breeding grounds in coastal areas.

The disease does not pose a threat to the Andean regions of Ecuador since the Aedes mosquito cannot survive at altitudes of over 2100m. A handful of cases diagnosed in Quito and Cuenca at the time of writing are due to people picking up the infection in other places (Colombia and coastal regions) before returning to these cities. At the moment no cases have been recorded in Ecuador's Amazon and 1 case has been confirmed in the Galapagos Islands.

There is no current treatment available for Zika so the best thing people can do is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when in affected areas, through the use of insect repellent and long sleeved clothing. If you are infected it is recommended that you rest and drink plenty of fluids.

For up-to-date information on the Zika epidemic you can visit http://www.bbc.com/news/health

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