WHO dispels rumors about Zika and microcephaly

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Beijing, Feb 20 (IANS) While the Zika virus is spreading explosively in the Americas, where an increasing number of microcephaly cases are being reported, rumours about the virus and microcephaly are also swirling.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday issued a statement, dispelling the four biggest rumours around the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly, Xinhua reported.

Rumour Number One: Microcephaly in babies is caused by vaccines.

There is no evidence that vaccines cause microcephaly in babies, the WHO said.

The statement added that there is no evidence linking any vaccine to the increase in microcephaly cases that were observed first in French Polynesia during the 2013-2014 outbreak and more recently in Brazil.

Meanwhile, an extensive review of the literature published in 2014 found no evidence that any vaccine administered during pregnancy resulted in birth defects. The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety reached a similar conclusion in 2014.

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Rumour Number Two: Pyriproxyfen insecticide causes microcephaly

A team of WHO scientists found no evidence that pyriproxyfen affects the course of pregnancy or the development of a foetus, after they recently reviewed data on the toxicology of pyriproxyfen.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and EU investigators reached a similar conclusion when they carried out a separate review of the product.

Pyriproxyfen, one of the 12 larvicides that WHO recommends to reduce the development of mosquitos, has been used since the late 1990s without being linked to microcephaly.

In places with no piped water, people tend to store drinking water in outdoor containers, which serve as ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos.

Larvicides are often used in those containers to kill the mosquito in its larval stage.

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When people drink water from containers that have been treated with pyriproxyfen, they are exposed to the larvicide — but in tiny amounts that do not harm their health.

Moreover, 90-95 percent of any larvicide ingested is excreted into the urine within 48 hours.

Rumour Number Three: The Zika outbreak and recently increasing microcephaly cases in Brazil are linked to the release of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the country.

The WHO said there is no evidence that the Zika virus disease or microcephaly in Brazil is caused by GM mosquitoes. The transgenic practice is a new means to control mosquitoes, in which the genes of male mosquitoes are modified and their larval offspring cannot survive after they mate with female mosquitoes.

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Currently, the WHO encouraged affected countries to boost the use of current mosquito control interventions and judiciously test the new approaches that could be applied in the future.

Rumour Number Four: Sterilized male mosquitoes contribute to the spread of Zika

The WHO noted that the sterilized mosquito is also a technique to control the spreading of diseases by mosquitoes. It uses low doses of radiation to sterilize male mosquitoes and the eggs laid by their female mating partners cannot survive.

The organisation said there was no evidence that the technique has been associated with increases in microcephaly cases or other human anomalies or defects.

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