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#ZikaVirus: WC Health Dept cautions pregnant women

The dept says women should not travel to countries that are affected by the virus.

Ana Beatriz is held by her father Alipio Martin during a medical appointment at the Altino Ventura Foundation in Recife, Brazil, on 29 January 2016. In Brazil, authorities are trying to shed light on the link between Zika virus related to 4,000 babies born with microcephaly. Picture: EPA/Percio Campos.

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Health Department has cautioned pregnant women to not travel to countries that are affected by the Zika virus.

Zika is carried by Aedes aegypti mosquitos and has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains in the Americas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the diseases linked to the virus a global public health emergency.

The provincial health department's Mark Van Der Heever said, "If a woman or anyone else returns from any parts of the world where the Zika virus is active, if they have a travel history and they have any of the fevers, they should visit their local clinic or doctor who will perform the necessary tests."

Yesterday, the WHO warned the virus linked to a microcephaly outbreak in Latin America could spread to Africa and Asia.

"We've now set up a global response unit which brings together all people across WHO, in headquarters, in the regions, to deal with a formal response using all the lessons we've learned from the Ebola crisis," said Anthony Costello, WHO director for maternal, child and adolescent health.

Costello added the WHO was drafting "good guidelines" for pregnant women and mustering experts to work on a definition of microcephaly including a standardized measurement of baby heads.

Meanwhile, an Indian biotechnology company said on Wednesday it was working on two possible vaccines to fight the virus.

An inactivated vaccine is created by killing a pathogen in a way that its ability to replicate is destroyed, but the immune system can still recognise it.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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