Officials from the World Health Organisation are conducting tests in the Maldives for signs of the Zika virus in the wake of media reports that a Finnish man was infected by the mosquito borne virus during a visit last year.
Ibrahim Nishan Ahmed from the Health Protection Agency, said that a two-member team from WHO is in the Maldives and “have drawn up plans to conduct tests to check for signs of the virus across the country.”
Most people do not develop symptoms, but the virus has been linked to brain abnormalities in thousands of babies, mainly in South America.
“The only reported sign of the virus in relation to the Maldives is that of the Finnish expatriate,” Nishan said.
The Finnish man had worked in the Maldives for six months and left in June last year, Nishan said. More details on the presence of Zika will be revealed after tests, he added.
Three to four million people could be infected across the Americas this year, the WHO predicts.
The symptoms in adults and children are similar to those for dengue fever, but generally milder, including fever, red eyes, join pain, rashes and headaches.
The WHO is convening an emergency meeting in Geneva today to decide whether to declare a global emergency.
There is currently no vaccine or cure, and diagnostic testing is difficult. The only option is to reduce the risk of being bitten and clear stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquitoe that also carries dengue and chikungunya virus.
Maldives sees periodic outbreaks of dengue resulting in fatalities. Last year, some five people died of dengue.
Zika was first detected in Uganda in 1947, but previous outbreaks have been minor. The virus has since spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas.