NCDC: There is no Risk of Zika Virus infection in Georgia

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of countries at risk from a Zika virus outbreak last week. Georgia - and in particular its Black Sea coast - were on the 15th place. Experts of Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) argue that this is due to the presence of the mosquito which transmits the virus in the region, although the risk of the virus’ spread is almost impossible.

“The existence of Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus which spread the Zika Virus, does not mean the presence of the virus in the region,” said Paata Imnadze, Deputy General Director of Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

According to him, the spread of the disease is a complex process, but the only way for the virus to spread is if the Aedes mosquito bites a person who already has Zika, and then the same mosquito bites someone else.

“In other words, to make the Zika virus spread in Georgia, we need a special mosquito species, which, unfortunately, we have, and at least one already infected patient, who has not registered yet,” explained Imnadze.

He added that the Lugar Laboratory in Tbilisi owned modern medical equipment to test for possible victims and expose the virus. However, Zika has quite common symptoms such as a headache or a rash, so people usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.

This virus is especially dangerous for pregnant women, because Zika may spread to the baby. This may result in microcephaly, Guillain-Barre syndrome and several brain problems.

Russia and the Black Sea coast were on the WHO’s warning list, but nobody infected with Zika has been identified. According to Imnadze, this underlines the rather low possibility of the virus spreading.

Despite the small chance of an epidemic, the Ministry of Health and other agencies are carrying out major disinfection works in Georgia’s Black Sea coast, including at top touristic destinations like Batumi and other resort cities. The NCDC argue that the disinfection will take place in May-June and August-September. The substances are safe for humans and strong enough to kill all kinds of mosquitoes. The Center claims that their effects will last until the end of November.

The Zika virus became relevant due to the upcoming Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio 2016, as Brazil has suffered from a Zika epidemic. The WHO states that it is cooperating with Rio to reduce Zika’s spread.

Eka Karsaulidze

26 May 2016 14:54