A Colombian man has become South Africa’s first recorded case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, Sky News reports. The businessman was found to have the disease during a visit to Johannesburg, according to South Africa’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He said the man “presented with fever and a rash approximately four days after arrival in South Africa but is now fully recovered”.
Zika has caused international alarm, with the World Health Organisation declaring it a global public health emergency earlier this month. The virus originated in Africa but until 2007 there had been only 20 or so known human cases. In May 2015, a case was diagnosed in Brazil and, since then, it has spread rapidly.
It is associated with neurological disorders microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause paralysis. Around 1.5 million people in Brazil have been infected in just eight months and 14 countries across South and Central America, including Barbados and Mexico, have reported locally-acquired cases.
A woman who returned to Texas from El Salvador recently gave birth to a baby affected by the virus and there is concern that native mosquitos across the southern United States could spread the virus. For most people the virus poses little long-term risk.
But because there is no treatment or vaccine – and the consequences for unborn babies so great – health authorities in Colombia and El Salvador have advised women not to become pregnant. Scientists are not sure why the virus is spreading so rapidly, but climate change has been suggested.