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Any Zika Virus Risk at Hajj 2016?

With Hajj about to begin, there is an unfortunate possibility of rumour-mongering spate about the risk of Zikra virus spreading from countries with reported cases to Saudi Arabia, the daily National Editorial (the National.ae.) reported on Sunday, September 4.

Hajj, Islamic Pilgrimage, involves a mix of participants from countries with and without reported Zika outbreaks. The virus has been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

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This sudden rumour spike is based on the lack of understanding of the ways of Zikra virus transmission, as well as the potential health effects it can cause. This is further linked to crowding at Hajj, which is the one of the world’s largest annual human gatherings.

According to the latest factsheet of World Health Organization (WHO) about the virus in June 2, 2016, the report informs that the Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.

People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.

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These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Links to other neurological complications are also being investigated.

The first identification of the virus was in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys through a network that monitored yellow fever. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania.

Doctors assure that the risk in KSA remains very low because of the absence of the main mosquito species known to be transmitting the virus in the country, the National.ae reported.

Dr. Oliver Brady, a research fellow in mathematical modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the co-author of a recently published report on the issue this month informed the National.ae that the evaluated virus’s ability to spread through the host mosquitoes would end up on a flight, let alone be able to survive to infect people in KSA.

Major health organizations put the risk in its proper context. No doubt that human societies and the scientific community have to take the virus seriously by filling the gaps in our knowledge about its transmission and effects. But this must not exceed this professional awareness to spreading unscientific rumors.

Protection against mosquito bites is a key measure to prevent Zika virus infection.