The mosquito species, particularly Aedes aegypti is currently being investigated for the birth of children in Latin America with abnormally small heads or microcephaly.
The same mosquito has also been linked to the spread of a type of arthritis in humans called Alphavirus Polyarthritis Syndrome.
According to the Veterinary Services Department, Kenya Wildlife Service, (KWS), Nairobi, the Zika spreading mosquito is also responsible for a type of arthritis in humans.
KWS says it has been taking a keen interest in emergence of Alphaviruses because these, including Chikungunya virus, O’nyong’nyong virus, Sindbis virus, Ross River virus, and Mayaro virus, have caused outbreaks in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and America.
A recent study done by the KWS, in collaboration with Umea University, Sweden, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya, IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre, Nairobi, says the threat posed to humans by these emerging viruses is real and immediate.
The study: ‘Global emergence of Alphaviruses that cause arthritis in humans’ is published in the December issue of the journal Infection Ecology & Epidemiology and led by Prof Olivia Wesula Lwande of Umea University.
A number of mosquito species, they say have been associated with the transmission of human arthritic Alphaviruses. They give an example of Chikungunya or CHIKV which is mostly transmitted by the aedes species of mosquitoes.
According to the World Health Organization, Chikungunya is mostly spread by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. It was first described in southern Tanzania in 1952 and has since been identified in over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
Currently an outbreak of Chikungunya is being experienced in parts of Latin America where Zika is also being observed. The name Chikungunya derives from a word in the Kimakonde language (Tanzania), meaning “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.
Although WHO fall short of linking Chikungunya to arthritis in human but says among others it causes debilitating and sever pains in joints. The joint pain, WHO says may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability.