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Russian health minister urges checks of passengers from countries affected by Zika virus

January 28, 15:45 UTC+3 ST PETERSBURG
According to the minister, the virus poses no danger of epidemic proportions to Russia
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© AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

ST PETERSBURG, January 28. /TASS/. Zika fever virus, widespread in South and North America and now threatening Europe, poses no danger of epidemic proportions to Russia, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said on Thursday.

"Such viruses are not usual for us as our environment does not provide proper conditions for the infection to spread," the minister said. "Monkeys and mosquitos are major spreaders of the disease so the epidemic does not threaten us."

But, she said, "We should avoid brought-in cases so all flights from countries affected by the virus must be checked." Despite the low risk, researchers are working on a vaccine, Skvortsova added.

Zika virus was isolated in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda. Last May, it began to spread rapidly in Brazil, then gaining ground in other countries of South and North America. Health officials report the virus penetrating 21 of 55 countries across the western hemisphere.

Medical professionals note special concern for infected pregnant women, whose children risk developing brain-damaging microcephaly.

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