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Zika virus epidemic in Russia impossible — health minister

May 24, 2016, 18:54 UTC+3

An epidemic in Russia is impossible, Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova says, explaining that by Russia’s climate, unfavorable for the spread of the virus

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YALTA, May 24./TASS/. The Zika virus epidemic in Russia is impossible, besides specialists have developed a mechanism to protect Russia against imported cases of Zika, Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said in reply to a TASS query on Tuesday.

"We have developed an efficient test system," the minister said. "An epidemic here, in Russia, is impossible," she said, explaining that by Russia’s climate, unfavorable for the spread of the virus. However, "isolated imported cases" are possible in Russia, and Rospotrebnadzor sanitary and consumer rights agency is fighting that, she said.

Russia is about to finish testing its own medical formulas against the virus Zika, the minister said. 

"We are about to be through with research and the testing of new medicines against the Zika virus our scientists have developed," Skvortsova said, adding that she hoped for a positive result.

The minister said a set of measures had been worked out to prevent imported cases. She spoke of the importance of simply knowing the symptoms, so that one could immediately test for the virus after experiencing these symptoms following a trip to the Dominican Republic or some other regions.

The minister said the illness "is usually mild with adults with symptoms of a light flu" with the exception of women with early pregnancy.

"There is data indicating that sometimes the Zika virus affects the embryo, resulting in its underdeveloped brain, the so-called microcephaly. Russia has developed "a most up-to-date testing system" for the virus, the minister added.

"We are now finishing trials of new medicines against Zika that our scientists have already developed," she said, adding that she expected "a positive result of these tests".

The Zika virus poses no real threat for Russia at the moment, a Russian academician said on Monday noting however that the situation could change amid global warming as a result of which mosquitoes that carry the virus could spread.

"At the moment, I believe that thanks God Russia sees no real and even small-scope threat," the general director of the N.F. Gamaleya Epidemiology and Microbiology Research Institute, Aleksandr Gintsburg, said.

So far, the Zika virus is not an endemic infection for Russia, he explained. Besides, "at the present moment, an efficient fight against the Zika virus consists first of all in efforts aimed at destruction of mosquitoes carrying it," he said.

"In Russia this work is done very well," he went on. However, the situation with Zika could change amid global warming in which mosquitoes could spread. "We must monitor whether the climate is changing or not," the scientist said.

The Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda. Last May, when the virus started rapidly spreading in Brazil and then spread to other countries of South and North America, it became a topic for wider discussion.

At the moment, outbreaks have been registered in Asia, Africa, in South and North America and in the Pacific region.

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

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