President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has revealed that three persons died of Zika virus in the country, with the Correo Del Orinoco newspaper saying there are 319 infection cases as of Thursday in the country - CNN writes.
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Venezuela is not the only Latin America country to be so affected by Zika virus, Columbia and El Salvador are among other 22 countries affected by the infection, with Brazil leading the pack in South America.
Zika virus is a flavivirus and of the same stock as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya, and dengue fever among others. Zika virus has no treatment plan or medications available for it, and there are no vaccines for it at the moment – unlike the others within its family. It is transmitted by infected Aeges aegypti mosquitoes.
The infection has been linked to microcephaly – an abnormal condition where newborns are born with very tiny heads and brain damage in some cases, and neurological disorders in some other cases. The disease was classified a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) early last week.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a first case in the US when it was transmitted via sex in Texas, rather than the usual mosquito bite, forcing health experts to consider the disease might be transmitted via sex in certain situations.
Several pharmaceutical companies in the US have started work on developing a vaccine for Zika virus, but they say the vaccines are 18 months away from being trialed in large populations of people, before they are certified effective for vaccination shots.
"The landscape is evolving very rapidly and numbers change daily," said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general for health systems and innovation. "About 15 companies have been identified by the WHO so far, and most only just started work. Two vaccines candidates seem to be more advanced."
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The outbreak of the virus is more worrisome in Brazil because the country will host the 2016 Rio Olympics in August, and because more infections linked to microcephaly have been reported there than in any other country.