Expert’s fears over deadly head-shrink virus

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A WIGAN botanical expert has spoken of his fears that the terrifying Zika virus may be unstoppable by natural means.

Neil Woodward was consulted in the successful battle to quash a mosquito problem inside the inspirational indoor rainforests of Cornwall’s Eden Project.

Neil Woodward, of Pier Aquatics

Neil Woodward, of Pier Aquatics

Eventually a natural solution solved the problem - rather than insecticide, but Mr Woodward, boss of tropical fish dealers, Pier Aquatics, believes that may not be possible with the Zika strain.

Mr Woodward, who has been on more than a dozen fish finding expeditions to the Brazilian Amazon, has discovered many fish species there.

The Zika virus has now reached Australia with 23 cases reported and health chiefs calling for an urgent response.

Mr Woodward said that the sheer number of watery puddles, pools and tiny streams in such a wet and warm climate as that in tropical Brazil would make it impossible to fight the virus-carrying mosquitos with a natural solution.

The high temperature means the insects can thrive in even the smallest source of water, such as old pop bottles or abandoned food cans that have filled with rain.

And the weather means its transformation from swimming bug to potential virus-carrying mosquito can happen in days, rather than weeks, as in the case in the United Kingdom.

Neil, 42, said: “Various countries in the world hand out bags full of live mosquito fish which can then be dropped into ponds to breed into a sufficient population to wipe out a mosquito problem.

“But I know from what I have seen many times, that’s never going to work in Brazil.

“Because of the climate and the shanty town life for millions of people, there are trickles of rainwater and puddles absolutely everywhere. Using fish would be impractical because the mosquitos only need an abandoned Coke can filled with water to breed.”

Meanwhile, government ministers have insisted the risk posed by the of Zika virus to the British public remains “extremely low”.

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott has called on the Government to back research into the outbreak especially as the Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro later this year.

International Development Minister Nick Hurd stressed that while the risk to the UK posed by Zika is small, the Government is going to review its approach.

He said: “We have already taken a number of steps to ensure the UK public are protected but of course we are not complacent and we will review our approach in light of the WHO’s decision, both in terms of actions to mitigate the risk to the UK and considering what additional support the UK could offer to the countries and the regions affected.”

WORLD Health Organisation chiefs are worried that the Zika virus is spreading far and fast with more than 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone since October.

It’s director general has described the virus an “extraordinary event 2” and said that priorities were now to protect pregnant women and their babies from the devastating potential harm the virus can cause.

The WHO said that most infections are mild and can cause few or now symptoms, but the biggest threat is to unborn babies.

Currently there is no vaccine or medication to stop Zika and the only way to avoid catching it is to avoid getting bitten by the type of mosquitoes that are known to be responsible for transmitting it.