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Planet in panic over Zika virus causing birth defects

January 27, 2016, 18:34 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Russian president has instructed the health minister to prevent the virus from spreading over Russian territory

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© AP Photo/Leo Correa

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. The Zika fever virus, widespread in South and North America, has started conquering Europe, with reports of infected people coming Wednesday from Sweden and Denmark.

Against that background, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova to prevent the virus from spreading on Russian territory.

Where it began

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. As of today, the virus has penetrated 21 out of 55 countries of the Western Hemisphere.

The virus causes high temperature, pink eye, headaches and malaise, joint pains, sometimes nausea and stomach pains and upset. Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes and has been isolated in particular from Aedes aegypti. There also are data that the virus may be transmitted from human to human during unprotected sexual contacts.

The special concern of specialists is caused by data that if a woman gets infected with the virus during pregnancy, the child may have microcephaly.

Putin gives instructions to prevent spread of disease in Russia

Against the backdrop of alarming news from Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Italy, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova to prevent the virus from spreading in Russia.

"There’s some infection, a virus, moving on from Latin America as well. Mosquitos transmit it. They won’t fly across the ocean, but infected people can and do so," Putin said at a meeting with government members.

Recalling that the new virus has appeared in Europe, he demanded "to pay attention to that, as the virus infects pregnant women and may have serious consequences for children."

Consumer watchdog warning

Russia’s federal consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor on Wednesday published a list of 27 countries where the stay of pregnant women is deemed dangerous over the Zika fever epidemic.

They include Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Thailand, Venezuela and others.

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