BANGKOK: Laos is the latest country to report a local transmission of Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization, as fears mount over the mosquito-borne illness that has been linked to birth defects. Asia has seen only a sprinkling of cases of the virus, but a surge in Latin America this year has pushed the UN health agency to declare Zika a global health emergency. Laos joined a total of 41 countries that have reported local transmissions of the virus since the beginning the year, a WHO report said. The sickness is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue fever.It breeds in tropical areas, including Southeast Asia, which has seen a spike in cases of dengue in recent months and most often causes mild, flu-like symptoms. A growing body of evidence suggests Zika can also trigger microcephaly, a severe deformation of the brain among newborns, in babies born to mothers infected while pregnant.