Zika Virus News & Update: Brazil to Fund Vaccine Research & Development; 'New Test Kit' in the Works

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Jan 18, 2016 06:02 AM EST

An Asian Tiger mosquito in an undated photo. Officials are warning about a rare mosquito invading the West Coast that has been known to carry Dengue fever and other diseases abroad. Health officials say that the bugs are coming from Asia in shipments of popular bamboo plants. (Photo : Jack Leonard/New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board/Getty Images)

Brazil has announced that they will be funding a vaccine research and development against the Zika virus.

Zika virus is currently linked to a phenomenon where thousands of babies in the country are born with small heads (microcephaly) and brain damage. According to Fox News, there are more than 3,500 babies born with the condition since October of 2015. In 2014, there were only less than 150 cases which led the health officials convinced that the surge of cases may be linked to the current Zika virus outbreak happening in the country. However, it is not yet proven that two have a cause and effect relationship according to international health experts.

Nevertheless, the government has announced that they will be funding the research and development of a vaccine against the virus. Health Minister Marcelo Castro hopes to have the Zika vaccine "in record time," however biomedical research center director Jorge Kalil says that it might take at least 3 years.

"Today there is only one way to fight the Zika virus, which is to destroy the mosquito's breeding grounds," said Castro. "The final victory against the virus will only come when we develop a vaccine against that disease."

Additionally, new testing kits to determine the presence of the virus including Dengue virus and Chikungunya which are spread by the same species of mosquito will be given to pregnant women first, BBC reports.

The outlet adds that the U.S. has a first confirmed baby to have been born with born damage brought by the virus. According to the Hawaiian State Department of Health, the baby that was born in Oahu, Hawaii may have been infected while the mother was living in Brazil in May of last year.

Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert for the Zika virus for those who will be going to various countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. A travel 2 alert has been issued for people traveling to countries including Puerto Rico, French Guiana, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Suriname, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito; the same species that spreads dengue and chikungunya viruses. Common symptoms of this disease include joint pain, fever, rash, and conjunctivitis, according to the New York Times. There is currently no cure or vaccine against the disease and those with serious symptoms are hospitalized otherwise those with mild symptoms will be relieved in several days or weeks.

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