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Putin instructs Health Ministry to prevent spread of Zika virus in Russia

January 27, 14:38 UTC+3
Zika fever outbreaks have been registered in Asia, Africa, South American and North America and in the Pacific region
1 pages in this article
Explanation of the symptoms of Zika virus

Explanation of the symptoms of Zika virus

© AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova on Wednesday to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in Russian territory.

"There's also some nasty thing spreading from Latin America, some sort of a virus. Mosquitoes spread it, they, of course, will not fly across the ocean, but the infected people can fly and they fly," the president said at a meeting with the government members.

According to Putin, the new virus has appeared in Europe. Therefore, the head of state demanded to "pay attention to it, because the virus affects pregnant women, which may have serious consequences for their children." "We need to pay close attention to this, as you have a good experience of work with transport companies, with aviation companies, we need to understand the signs [of the infection] and promptly respond," the president said, adding, "of course, it is necessary to work on the [antiviral] drugs."

"It’s the Zika infection and we keep a check on it since the moment it appeared," Skvortsova said. According to her, the study of new virus strains and their laboratory research is underway and the work on the creation of Russian prevention and treatment medications is conducted.

"We are permanently monitoring the situation," the minister said.

Zika fever outbreaks have been registered in Asia, Africa, South American and North America and in the Pacific region. Single cases of the disease have so far been recorded in Europe. In particular, two Zika infection cases have been confirmed in Switzerland and another four — in Italy.

The Zika virus causes high body temperature, conjunctivitis, headache, main in the joints, inflammation, and in some cases - nausea and vomiting and stomach ache. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the infection carrier.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by Zika virus (ZIKV), consisting of mild fever, rash (mostly maculo-papular), headaches, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia, and non-purulent conjunctivitis, occurring about two to seven days after the mosquito vector bite. One out of four people may develop symptoms, but in those who are affected the disease is usually mild with symptoms that can last between two and seven days. Its clinical manifestation is often similar to dengue, also a mosquito-borne illness.

Reportedly, being infected with the virus during pregnancy causes the child microcephaly — a birth defect causing small skull size of newborns and accompanied by mental retardation, neurotic disorders, impaired hearing and vision. However, according to the World Health Organization, there is little evidence of the transfer of Zika virus during pregnancy or childbirth from the mother to child.

According to WHO, pregnant women have the same risk as the rest of the population of being infected with Zika virus, which is transmitted by the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Many women may remain unaware they have the virus, as they may not develop any symptoms. Only one in four people infected with Zika develops symptoms, and in those with symptoms the illness is usually mild. The most common symptoms are slight fever and exantema, or rash. Research is being done to determine what effects Zika can have on fetuses.

On 28 November 2015, the Ministry of Health of Brazil established a relationship between an increase in cases of microcephaly in newborns and Zika virus infections in the country’s northeast. According to a preliminary analysis of research carried out by Brazilian authorities, the greatest risk of microcephaly and malformations appears to be associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy. Health authorities, with support from PAHO (Pan-American Health Organization) and other agencies, are conducting research to clarify the cause, risk factors, and consequences of microcephaly. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika virus infection. Therefore, treatment for everyone, including pregnant women, is directed at alleviating symptoms.

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