U.S. begins research into zika vaccine

The disease seems to be related to birth defects in Brazil.

Don't expect protection anytime soon, since vaccine development typically takes years. (Photo: File)
English 26/01/2016 18:29 Actualizada 20:58
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The U.S. 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.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says in an interview Tuesday: "This is not going to be overnight."

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.

In the meantime, Costa Rica has confirmed the first known case of the Zika virus in the Central American nation.

The Health Ministry says the mosquito-borne virus was apparently contracted by a 25-year-old man during a trip to Colombia this month.

It said he showed the first symptoms of the virus on Jan. 22 while still in Colombia, returned to Costa Rica the following day and sought medical attention on the 24th.

Authorities conducted a sweep for possible mosquito breeding grounds for about 100 yards (meters) around the man's home, and fumigated the area.

They also interviewed neighbors but did not find any other people with Zika symptoms.

Back in the U.S., health officials have again expanded their travel alert to pregnant women about trips to the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday added the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks. Research in Brazil is suggesting a link between the infection in pregnant moms and a rare birth defect.

Previously, the CDC recommended that pregnant women should consider postponing trips to 22 destinations. In Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. In the Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin and Puerto Rico. Also, Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa; and Samoa in the South Pacific.

The things are so complicated that the health authorities in Panama are recommending that members of an indigenous community hard-hit by Zika avoid getting pregnant.

At least 42 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been detected in the sparsely populated province of Guna Yala along the Caribbean coast, one of them a 22-year-old pregnant woman. The area formerly known as San Blas is dominated by indigenous groups and popular with tourists.

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Zika virus alert Latin America
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