UN health chief: Zika virus is 'spreading explosively'

Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

The outbreak is likely to touch all countries of the Americas where Aedes mosquitos, which carry the virus, are found. This includes everywhere in the region expect for Chile and Canada.

The WHO will convene a meeting next week of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to discuss the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, and an alarming increase in birth defects in Brazil.

But "the situation today is dramatically different", she said, highlighting the growing concern that Zika has links to a birth defect known as microcephaly, or an abnormally small head.

The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, according to the CDC.

The county's top health official advised travelers to use bug spray approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers or clothing specially treated to avoid mosquito bites. But the organization is under pressure respond quickly - more quickly that it did in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that killed 10,000 people.

An estimated 80 per cent of people infected have no symptoms, meaning it can be hard to tell if a pregnant woman has been infected.

UN health chief: Zika virus is 'spreading explosively'

Between three and four million cases of the virus are expected, infectious disease expert Marcos Espinal warned, although he did not give a time frame.

The virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, has been spreading rapidly in Latin America.

The Zika virus is "spreading explosively", the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. It has since spread in Chan's words "explosively" to 22 countries and territories in the hemisphere.

"However, because of the epidemiological link, there is a temporal relationship, and more research is going to be done in order to make sure if it is or not caused by the Zika virus".

Minnesota has one confirmed cases of Zika infection this year, which occurred in an Anoka County woman in her 60s who had recently traveled to Honduras.

Currently Zika virus is present in Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Samoa, Suriname and Venezuela. Scientists have struggled for years to develop a dengue vaccine; the first such shot made by Sanofi Pasteur was licensed last year in Brazil.

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