Ugandan health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has dismissed claims by the World Health Organization (WHO) that her country is affected by the Zika virus as false, baseless and misleading.


Responding to a recent WHO health advisory which warned pregnant women against travelling to Uganda due to a higher risk of contracting the Zika virus, Dr Aceng said the world should ignore the advice because it does not reflect the reality on the ground.

“That is very wrong information. Whereas the Zika virus was once found in Uganda, we do not have it anymore and they (WHO) know that very well.

“Even when the recent Zika virus outbreak hit Brazil in 2015, we did not have it here. Since the information is on the WHO website, they are better placed to explain what they mean,” Dr Aceng said.

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and sex. It increases pregnancy risks such as miscarriages, stillbirths and microcephaly in infants.

According to a statement on the WHO website, Uganda is classified among the Zika-affected countries that are high-risk areas for pregnant women:

“Based on available evidence, WHO has issued no general restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and /or territories with Zika virus transmission. However, WHO is advising pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 in the country classification table.”

Countries in Category 1 are defined as those with new outbreaks of the Zika virus since 2015 as well as areas where the virus has been re-introduced and those with ongoing transmissions.

These include Angola, Guinea Bissau, Argentina, Cuba, British Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago among others. Uganda is classified in Category 2, which includes countries with evidence of Zika virus circulation before 2015, have ongoing transmissions or may experience new outbreaks.

Other countries in WHO Category 2 are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria, Senegal, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica and Mexico.