Research into possible vaccine for Zika virus begins
The US government is beginning research into a possible vaccine for the mosquito-borne Zika virus that is suspected of causing an unusual birth defect as it spreads in Latin America.
Don't expect protection anytime soon, vaccine development typically takes years.
"This is not going to be overnight,"
Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in an interview with AP.
But there are vaccines in various stages of development for other viruses in the same family; dengue, West Nile and chikungunya, that offer a pattern for creating something similar against Zika, said Fauci, who directs NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
NIH researchers have begun some initial work, and the agency also plans to boost funding to some Brazilian scientists to accelerate Zika-related research, he said.
In the meantime, an update on the fight against the Zika virus that health officials suspect is linked to a wave of birth defects in Brazil has revealed that:
Health officials in Helsinki said that a Finnish tourist was infected by the Zika virus after visiting the Maldives last summer. Epidemiologist Jussi Sane at the National Institute for Health and Welfare said it was a minor infection and the man was well and had been allowed home soon after being treated by doctors in June 2015. Sane said yesterday that it was the first known case in which the infection was linked to the Maldives. The virus has long been present in Africa and Asia and it has caused alarm after appearing last year in Brazil, where it is suspected of causing birth defects.
Venezuela's medical community is demanding that the government publish statistics about infections by the Zika virus and warning it could already be alarmingly widespread. Venezuela's Ministry of Health has so far only confirmed the presence of the mosquito-borne illness in the country bordering Brazil, where Zika is suspected of causing birth defects. The ministry stopped publishing data on all epidemic diseases a year ago. Former Health Minister Jose Felix Oletta said it is unacceptable that the government has waited so long to release Zika statistics and begin working to contain the virus. Non-government organisations have reported a sharp increase in unusual fevers here.
Portugal's National Director for Health said five Portuguese are infected with Zika after visiting Brazil. Francisco Jorge tells public broadcaster RTP there's one other "very probable" but unconfirmed case of a Portuguese who recently visited Colombia. All are adults, he said, without providing further details. European officials have said they expect to see cases of the Zika virus among travellers, but say local transmission is unlikely.
Ugandan researchers said the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus is not considered a threat in the African country where it was first discovered in a monkey in 1947. Virologist Julius Lutwama with the Uganda Virus Research Institute said yesterday there has never been a known outbreak in Uganda, though a few samples have tested positive over the years. He said Zika is "not a very important disease" on a continent where malaria, also transmitted by mosquitoes, is the major killer. Zika virus is named for a forest just outside Uganda's capital, Kampala, where it was first identified.