The deadly Zika virus, which almost marred the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, has been detected in Kenya for the first time.
On Friday, local researchers said they have detected 33 Zika incidents in West Pokot County and one in Turkana County, the first ever recorded in Kenya.
The team from the Ministry of Health, the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe), Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology want measures put in place to prevent a possible outbreak.
The researchers in the study published in Virology Journal on Friday on May 17, 2019, said they had found evidence Zika virus has been circulating undetected in human populations in West Pokot and Turkana counties.
The team led by Edith Chepkorir of Icipe was hunting for yellow fever, dengue, West Nile and Zika viruses in the two counties.
The areas were being investigated because they border Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia where recent outbreaks of yellow fever and dengue have been reported, with possibility of spillover into Kenya.
In the study, they found all the four viruses present with Zika being recorded for the first time in Kenya.
The team had collected 877 samples from the two counties with 33 turning positive for Zika in West Pokot and one in Turkana.
“The results in the current study suggest circulation of Zika in both counties, yet there have never been reported or confirmed cases of Zika in Kenya,” the report notes.
The virus was first identified in a rhesus monkey in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. Coincidentally, the new study says the Kenya cases were detected in an area called Kanyerus, West Pokot, which is very close to where the virus was first recorded in Uganda.