AN EPIDEMIC of a malignant mosquito-borne virus will likely spread across the Americas having already spiralled out of control following its emergence in Brazil last year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Zika virus, which causes brain deformities in babies, poses a significant threat to 21 countries, with only Canada and Chile completely safe thus far.
Scientists have now connected the virus to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly with Brazil now reporting around 4,000 cases, in which babies are born with smaller brains.
Transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes to humans, WHO have partially blamed the viruses rapid spread to a lack of native immunity in the Americas. Known as Yellow Fever mosquitoes, they originated in Africa but have since spread to other tropical regions.
WHO is also looking into the possibility of human-human sexual transmission with Zika previously isolated in semen.
Brazilian authorities are troubled by the inherent risk posed in the descent of approximately half a million tourists on Rio de Janerio for the summer Olympics. Inspections of the facilities will begin early in a bid to wipe out possible breeding grounds.
One case has been identified as far afield as Hawaii, while the number of reported cases in Brazil alone is roughly 30 times the global volume seen in a year.
Although the effects on people are usually moderate, with the majority not even falling sick, it is the causal link to birth defects that has scientists concerned. Some have argued for a much faster deployment of international resources than seen during the Ebola outbreak, while a vaccine might be developed in the near future.