What you need to know about ZIKA Virus - WHO

Two of the world’s biggest drug companies are evaluating whether existing vaccine technology could be used against the Zika virus, as the World Health Organisation warned the mosquito-borne virus was likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile.
The WHO director general, Margaret Chan, told the organisation’s executive board that she had asked Carissa Etienne, head of the WHO in the Americas, to brief the board later this week on its response to the outbreak. The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to brain deformities in babies.

Zika is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which typically causes mild fevers and rashes, although about 80% of those infected show no symptoms.
“We’re concluding our feasibility studies as quickly as we can to see if our vaccine technology platforms might be suitable for working on Zika,” Glaxo spokeswoman Anna Padula told Reuters in an email.
The first outbreak of the disease outside of Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands occurred in May 2015, when a case was reported in Brazil.
It was previously considered to have relatively mild consequences for those infected. But in November Brazil’s health ministry said that the virus was linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which babies are born with smaller than normal brains.
The WHO attributed the rapid spread of Zika to the fact that the population of the Americas had not previously been exposed to it and so lacks immunity.
It said in a statement: “The role of Aedes mosquitoes in transmitting Zika is documented and well understood, while evidence about other transmission routes is limited. Zika has been isolated in human semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described. However, more evidence is needed to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission.”

“This is an important emerging disease outbreak situation and we really must apply the lessons that we learnt from Ebola because Zika could be a major public health issue in these countries,” she said. “There are many unknowns and so research is urgently needed to understand what is happening and how to prevent further cases.
“There is no treatment and no vaccine and so this would need addressing through clinical trials as quickly as possible.”

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