The Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public that the country is at no threat of the Zika Virus that is now ravaging communities in South America. Surveillance reports across the country have indicated no risk of the virus. The current virus spreading in South America is a different species from the one once recorded in Uganda.
The virus was first isolated in April 1947 from a rhesus macaque monkey. The monkey had been placed in a cage on a platform in the Zika Forest of Uganda near Entebbe, by the scientists of the Yellow Fever Research Institute now the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).
Human infections were later reported from African countries such as the Central African Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as in parts of Asia including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The vertebrate hosts of the virus are primarily monkeys and humans.
Zika virus causes a mild illness in humans known as Zika fever, or Zika disease. Common symptoms of infection with the virus include mild headaches, maculopapular rash, fever, malaise, conjuctivitis and joint pains.
The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Until more recently, Zika fever has been a relatively mild disease of limited scope, with only one in five persons developing symptoms, with no fatalities. Confirmed cases of Zika virus infection have been rare in Africa and in Asia.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti, Ae. africanus, Ae. luteocephalus, etc,). Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a monkey or a person already infected with the virus.
Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
The threat of ZIKA VIRUS:
- The Zika virus spreading in South America is not from Uganda
- Thouugh Uganda has the mosquito species capable of transmitting Zika virus, the mosquitoes are arboreal (Forest mosquitoes) and bite at night or at dusk and dawn mostly in the canopy. People have moved out of the forests by the time they bite.
- The aegypti mosquito commonly found in many parts of Uganda, which bites during the day, does not prefer to bite humans but bites other animals. Because of this, there is reduced risk of transmission.
The Ministry of Health reaffirms that the Uganda Virus Research Institute has testing facilities for Zika virus. The public should remain calm as no cases have been recorded.