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US investigates reports of 14 sexually transmitted Zika cases as Brazil tackles virus

US health officials are investigating 14 cases of Zika infections which may have been spread through sex. The WHO, meanwhile, has lauded Brazil's efforts in stopping the spread of the virus ahead of the Summer Olympics. The CDC stressed that there was no evidence that women can spread the virus to their sex partners, but said more research was needed. There have, however, been two reported cases where Zika was sexually transmitted, including a recent one in the US state of Texas, and at least two other reports where the Zika virus was found in semen. The current advice from the CDC to men who have recently been to an area affected by the Zika virus is to use a condom when having sex with a pregnant woman or to abstain. The CDC has also recommended that pregnant women postpone trips to more than 30 destinations currently tackling the virus. 'Very good plan' to tackle Zika Following a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan said the Brazilian government is doing all it can to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. "I want to reassure you that the government is working very closely with the international Olympic movement, with the local organizing committee, supported by the WHO, to make sure we have a very good work plan to target the mosquito, and to make sure that people who will come here either as visitors or athletes will get the maximum protection they need," Chan said. "I am confident the government can do it," Chan told reporters. Many scientists believe that a recent spike in microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, could be linked to the Zika virus. Brazil's Health Ministry said Tuesday that the number of confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly had risen to 4,690 from 4,443 a week earlier. Of these, the number of confirmed cases had climbed to 583 from 508. The Zika virus is largely spread by the same kind of mosquito that transmits other tropical diseases, including dengue and chikungunya. Although there is no definitive proof that the virus is causing the birth defects, WHO has declared Zika a global emergency. Some 1.5 million people have been infected with the Zika virus in Brazil since early 2015, but only three have died. There is currently no cure or vaccine for Zika, and the WHO has estimated that development of a immunization might take 18 months.

US health officials are investigating 14 cases of Zika infections which may have been spread through sex. The WHO, meanwhile, has lauded Brazil’s efforts in stopping the spread of the virus ahead of the Summer Olympics. The CDC stressed that there was no evidence that women can spread the virus to their sex partners, but said more research was needed. ... Read More »

Zika cases in pregnant women double in Colombia

Health officials say the number of pregnant women with the Zika virus has doubled in a week. The virus has been linked to babies being born with smaller than normal brains and is spreading through the Americas. Health officials in Colombia announced Saturday that more than 2,000 pregnant women have now been infected with the mosquito-born Zika virus, making Colombia the second hardest-hit country after Brazil, the epicenter of the outbreak. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. The disease has no known cure and is said to be untreatable, and can cause permanent damage to a child's motor and cognitive development. The virus is said to be carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The national health institute said in an epidemiology bulletin that there are 20,927 confirmed cases of the disease in Colombia, with 2,116 pregnant women among them. There are so far no reports of death from the disease in the country. The announcement comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned this week that the virus is "spreading explosively" across the Americas, predicting three to four million cases this year. The WHO is due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to address the spread of the disease. Preparing for the worst Meanwhile, Colombian authorities have ordered hospitals to prepare, as the government expects more than 600,000 people to become infected with the virus. In addition, authorities in the country have asked women to delay conceiving by six to seven months to avoid potential infection. The health ministry has allowed abortions, as the deformity of the fetus meets health requirements. Many women, especially those living far away from large cities, find it difficult to find legal abortion providers. Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rica have also warned women to delay conceiving. Brazil, the hardest hit country, has reported 3,700 cases of microcephaly so far. In August the country is due to host the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The International Olympic Committee assured teams the Olympics would be safe from the virus, but urged visitors to protect themselves.

Health officials say the number of pregnant women with the Zika virus has doubled in a week. The virus has been linked to babies being born with smaller than normal brains and is spreading through the Americas. Health officials in Colombia announced Saturday that more than 2,000 pregnant women have now been infected with the mosquito-born Zika virus, making Colombia ... Read More »

Two US residents test positive for Zika virus

Two US residents, both of whom recently traveled abroad, have tested positive for the tropical-borne Zika virus. The virus is causing alarm in a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Officials in Virginia and Arkansas confirmed the test results on Tuesday. In both cases officials declined to identify exactly where they may have contracted the disease. However, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr Marissa Levine said the Virginia resident traveled to a country where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing. She added the person posed no risk to others, as it is not mosquito season in Virginia. "Zika virus is acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine said in a statement. Zika is generally considered a milder form of other mosquito borne illnesses such as dengue fever. But Brazil, has seen a spike in Zika cases at the same time it has seen dramatic rise in new born babies suffering a rare birth defect. Not scientifically proven It has yet to be scientifically proven but the suspicion is that pregnant women infected with the Zika virus are giving birth to babies afflicted with microcephaly - that is, babies with unusually small heads who may suffer brain damage as a result. The virus has surged in Brazil, where officials have simultaneously seen an increase in birth defects. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a list of Latin American and Carribean countries with confirmed cases of Zika, and recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel there. The 22 countries affected are, 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. Passenger refunds Two US airlines - United and American - are offering refunds to some or all passengers with reservations to any of the countries on the CDC list . President Barack Obama met with his senior health advisers on Tuesday, and urged them to accelerate research into diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapeutic drugs, and work to inform Americans about the Zika virus and ways to protect against infection. But it will likely take years to come up with an effective vaccine. "This is not going to be overnight," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. The World Health Organization predicts the virus will spread to all countries across the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

Two US residents, both of whom recently traveled abroad, have tested positive for the tropical-borne Zika virus. The virus is causing alarm in a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Officials in Virginia and Arkansas confirmed the test results on Tuesday. In both cases officials declined to identify exactly where they may have contracted the disease. However, Virginia Health ... Read More »

Zika virus reaches New York

A virus likely to have caused thousands of birth defects in Brazil has been found in three individuals in New York. Pregnant women traveling abroad have been warned to exercise particular caution. The New York State Department of Health announced on its website late Friday that three people in the state had tested positive for the Zika virus . The virus, well known in Latin American and Caribbean countries, is known to cause birth defects such as microcephaly if pregnant women become infected. The Zika virus is often transmitted by mosquitoes, and has been likened to a milder form of dengue fever. No medicine or vaccine exists against the virus, which causes symptoms like rash, fever, pink eye and joint pain, and so the only cure is rest. Health officials in New York said the three patients had recently returned from countries were the virus is prevalent, and that one had already recovered. "…This is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to check all health advisories before traveling and take preventive measures when traveling to affected countries," said state health commissioner Howard Zucker. Under normal circumstances, Zika is not a particularly common virus, but health authorities have had cause to worry over an extended outbreak in Brazil that began last year. Since October, some 3,500 babies in the South American nation have been diagnosed with microcephaly, a debilitating condition which causes their heads to be smaller than normal and can lead to disruptions of motor skills, speech ability, and mobility.

A virus likely to have caused thousands of birth defects in Brazil has been found in three individuals in New York. Pregnant women traveling abroad have been warned to exercise particular caution. The New York State Department of Health announced on its website late Friday that three people in the state had tested positive for the Zika virus . The ... Read More »

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