The islands of Cape Verde, or Cabo Verde of the coast of western Africa has seen some 7500 suspected Zika virus cases to date and now testing performed by Institut Pasteur, Dakar confirms that the Zika virus currently circulating in Cabo Verde is the same as the one circulating in the Americas – the Asian type- and was most likely imported from Brazil.

Cape Verde/Alvaro1984 18
Cape Verde/Alvaro1984 18

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this is the first time that the Zika strain responsible for the outbreaks linked to neurological disorders and microcephaly has been detected in Africa.

“The findings are of concern because it is further proof that the outbreak is spreading beyond South America and is on the doorstep of Africa. This information will help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

As a first step, these countries should heighten risk communication to pregnant women to raise awareness of complications associated with the Asian type of Zika virus and promote protection steps to avoid mosquito bites as well as sexual transmission. In addition, countries should increase their surveillance for Zika transmission and congenital malformations, such as microcephaly, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

In addition to the 7557 suspected Zika cases in Cabo Verde, three cases of microcephaly have been reported.