The possibility of Zika virus getting into Nigeria has been raised to a high probability. This follows a prediction by scientists trying to forecast the future path of the deadly virus.
According to the research, an estimated 2.6 billion people living in parts of Asia and Africa could be at risk of infection, based on a new analysis of travel, climate and mosquito patterns in those regions.
Some of the most vulnerable countries include India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to the research.
Experts caution that the study could overestimate the number of people at risk because they don’t know whether Zika had already landed in some of these countries in the past and allowed people to develop immunity. More than two-thirds of people infected with Zika never get sick, and symptoms are mild for those who do, so surveillance systems may have missed cases.
The research said “For countries with a finite amount of resources, this may help them use those resources as efficiently as possible,” said Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious diseases physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the study’s senior author.
To figure out where Zika might gain a future foothold, researchers examined patterns of people traveling from infected regions in the Americas to Africa and Asia and combined that with an assessment of local conditions, including mosquito populations. They used the spread of a related virus, dengue, as a model for Zika since the same mosquito species transmits both diseases. Dengue is not spread by sex, like Zika, but mosquitoes are responsible for the vast majority of Zika cases globally.
The study was published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet.
Some experts pointed out that the expected impact of Zika will depend largely on whether people have any previous exposure to the virus — and that is unknown.
“No one has ever looked, so we don’t know if there is any pre-existing immunity to the virus,” said Dr. Abraham Goorhuis of the University of Amsterdam, an author of a commentary that accompanies the Lancet study. The virus in the Americas is an Asian strain that was responsible for a large outbreak in French Polynesia and other Pacific Islands in 2013 and 2014.
The threat of Zika virus entering Nigeria should be taking seriously. The last time the Ebola virus entered Nigeria, the economy without recession suffered huge losses in tourism and hospitality sector.
The government must act fast to take preventive measures before we have another health disaster berths in Nigeria.