Chile confirms first case of Zika virus

February 3, 2016 12:22 pm 

SANTIAGO, Feb. 3 — Chilean authorities on Tuesday confirmed the first case of Zika virus in the country, on the heels of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s declaration of an international health emergency.

Jeannette Dabanch, director of the Chilean Society of Infectious Diseases, said that a Chilean man was found ill after returning from Colombia and was being treated at a hospital in Santiago.

A second suspicious case was currently being evaluated by authorities, Dabanch added.

The confirmation of the first Zika case in Chile in the current outbreak came a day after the WHO declared an international health emergency for Zika, which has now infected people in at least 24 countries in the Americas.

Global health officials have warned the Zika virus, which is believed to cause birth defects such as microcephaly, or small heads, is rapidly spreading in the Americas and could infect 3 million to 4 million people.

In Chile, an outbreak of Zika in 2014 had infected at least 50 people on Easter Island.

Also on Tuesday, Chile's Health Minister, Carmen Castillo, was travelling to Uruguay for an emergency Mercosur meeting to analyze the possible responses to the Zika virus.

The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, will gather health ministers from 15 Latin American countries and representatives from the Pan American Health Organization to seek a regional response to the crisis.

Zika is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the disease.

About one in five people infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain, and pink eye.(PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/MEC

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