GENEVA — Local Zika virus transmission cases have been reported in 47 countries, a senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

According to Bruce Aylward, the WHO Executive Director for Outbreaks and Health Emergencies, there exists “accumulating evidence” of a link between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, reported in nine of 47 countries hit by Zika fever.

“Since the public health emergency of international concern was declared back in February, the evidence that there may be a causal relationship has continued to accumulate,” Aylward told a briefing in Geneva.

Aylward said that recently published studies in the Lancet on microcephaly and by the US Centers for Disease Control on Guillain-Barre strengthened the case that the mosquito-borne Zika virus is responsible.

“We’re now in the high season for dengue virus transmission in the southern hemisphere, that started a month or so ago,” Aylward said. “We believe because it’s the same vector, that this would be the high season obviously for Zika transmission as well.”

The WHO’s Emergency Committee will meet on March 7-9 to review “evolving information” and its recommendations on travel and trade in what is thought to be high season for transmission of the mosquito-borne virus in the southern hemisphere.

Zika virus was isolated in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda. Last May, it began to spread rapidly in Brazil, then gaining ground in other countries of South and North America. Health officials report the virus penetrating 21 of 55 countries across the western hemisphere.

Medical professionals note special concern for infected pregnant women, whose children risk developing brain-damaging microcephaly. PNA/TASS/northboundasia.com