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Pregnant Woman In Australia Diagnosed With Zika Virus

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A pregnant woman in Australia was diagnosed with the Zika virus on Feb. 8. The virus, which has been linked to brain damage in infants, was reportedly contracted abroad.

The diagnosis was confirmed by the Queensland department of health, and it comes after the Australian government issued a warning to pregnant women to avoid regions where the Zika virus is prevalent, The Guardian reports.

This is the third case of Zika diagnosed in Queensland in February, although none of the cases were contracted inside Australia. 

On Feb. 5, Cameron Dick, the Health Minister of Queensland, said the isolated cases of the Zika virus demonstrates that the state’s Zika deterrence system is working, although he expects more infections in Queensland.

The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a rare condition that impedes the brain development of babies. Infants with the Zika virus can be born with a smaller head and brain size. 

The Zika virus is known to be spread via mosquitoes, including the Aedes aegypti species found in northern Australia. The Australian health department announced it will launch preventative testing in its northern region to guard against mosquitoes’ potential spreading of the virus.

The diagnosis in Queensland comes after the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus epidemic an international emergency on Feb. 1.  The outbreak of the virus began in Brazil, where there are an estimated 1.5 million cases of the disease. 

The WHO’s declaration of an international emergency will allow it to use a $15 million fund to curb the spread of the disease, reports NPR.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO, described the potential effects of Zika as “an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world.”

Zika virus is mostly found in Latin America and the Caribbean, and people in 25 countries have diagnosed with it as of 2016.

Cornell University virologist Gary Whittaker said a vaccine for the Zika virus is attainable.   

“In terms of a vaccine the good news is that there’s already a fair amount of knowledge in related viruses,” Whittaker told NPR.

Whittaker added that the WHO’s funds are not sufficient to fund vaccine development efforts.

Sources: The Guardian, National Public Radio, The Straits Times / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (2)

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