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Obama Urges Development of Tests, Treatments for Zika Virus


A researcher holds a container with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 18, 2016. The Aedes aegypti is a vector for transmitting the Zika virus.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for the rapid development of tests, vaccines and treatments for the Zika virus that has infected people in more than 20 countries in the Americas.

The White House said Obama convened a meeting of senior health advisers to discuss the spread of the mosquito-borne virus and the economic and developmental impacts on the region.

Factbox: Zika Virus

Zika Virus

  • Mosquito-borne virus first identified in Uganda in 1947
  • Known to circulate in Africa, the Americas and Asia
  • About 20 percent of those infected become ill
  • Symptoms similar to dengue and chikungunya, which are carried by same type of mosquito
  • Most common effects are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes; last 2-7 days
  • Deaths are rare
  • No vaccine or treatment available
  • Best prevention is preventing mosquito bites

Source: WHO and U.S. CDC

According to the World Health Organization, Zika virus could be linked to 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, a condition that results in abnormally small heads in newborns and can affect brain development.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women against traveling to areas with Zika virus outbreaks.

U.S. health officials confirmed Tuesday that a man in Virginia had tested positive for the virus, but added there was no risk of it spreading to others because it is not mosquito season there.

Denmark case

On Wednesday, a hospital in Denmark said a tourist who had traveled to South and Central America has tested positive.

There is no treatment or cure for Zika virus infections, and the outbreak in the Americas has prompted public health warnings.

Authorities in El Salvador and Colombia have recommended women postpone getting pregnant.

In Brazil, 200,000 troops are traveling to homes to distribute pamphlets with advice on mosquito eradication, while crews are also fumigating areas that will be used for upcoming carnival celebrations and this year's Olympics.

The WHO's regional office in the Americas said Monday the most effective ways to stop the virus from spreading are to reduce mosquito breeding sites and for people to protect themselves from bites with insect repellent, nets, screens and clothing that covers as much of the body as possible.