Zika virus expected to spread to Europe by the summer, says WHO

A new report says there is a 'moderate' risk in 18 countries

Zika virus, Ireland, Europe, WHO, report, EU member states, risk assessment, outbreak

Image: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the Zika virus is likely to spread to Europe by late spring and summer.

A new report assesses the risk of a Zika virus outbreak in the European region.

It says that while the overall risk is low to moderate, "countries where Aedes mosquitoes are present are more likely to experience a Zika virus outbreak".

The report contains a series of actions that WHO recommends for countries.

It is urging European countries, especially those with high and moderate likelihood of local Zika virus transmission, to follow these recommendations to prevent or rapidly contain a Zika virus disease outbreak.

"The new evidence published today tells us that there is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European region and that this risk varies from country to country," says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe.

Ireland is said to have a "very low" likelihood of an outbreak | Image: WHO

"With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk. We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritise the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak".

The WHO assessed the risk of an outbreak in member states based on two factors: the likelihood of Zika virus spread, and existing national capacity to prevent or rapidly contain local transmission.

Ireland is classified as having a "very low" risk of an outbreak, coming 12th last on their list.

It found that: "The likelihood of local Zika virus transmission, if no measures are taken to mitigate the threat, is moderate in 18 countries in the European region and high in limited geographical areas: the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea".

"We stand ready to support European countries on the ground in case of Zika virus outbreaks," says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, director of the Communicable Diseases and Health Security Division, WHO regional office for Europe.

"Our support to countries in the Region to prepare for and respond to health risks such as Zika is a key aspect of the reform of WHO's work in emergencies".