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    Jan 28, 2016

    Zika outbreak: Obama calls for vaccine to be developed


    TWO more European countries have reported Zika infection while United States President Barack Obama called for rapid development of vaccines to fight the mosquito-transmitted virus, which has been blamed for a surge in birth defects.

    A young Danish man and two Swiss travellers, said to be not pregnant, were the latest in Europe to be diagnosed with the virus after they returned from Latin America, reported Agence France-Presse. The Dane was expected to make a full recovery while the Swiss did not need hospital care, said AFP.

    Zika infections have been discovered in Europe, with 10 cases in the Netherlands, five in Britain, four in Italy, two in Spain and one in Sweden.

    There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika, a flu-like disease marked by a rash that goes unnoticed in 70 to 80 per cent of cases.

    The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

    Zika was first reported in Africa, Asia and the Pacific before leaping to the Americas, where it has been linked to a jump in the number of babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, particularly in Brazil.

    The number of cases of the deformity in Brazil surged from 163 per year on average to 3,893 after the Zika outbreak began last year.

    Forty-nine of the babies have died.

    Some 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries have been swept up in the outbreak which has extended as far north as Mexico.

    Travellers have also brought it back to the US states of Florida, Hawaii and New York.

    Mr Obama on Tuesday called for acceleration in research efforts to develop better diagnostic tests as well as vaccines and therapeutics after being briefed on the potential spread of the virus by his top health and national security officials, reported Reuters.

    Mr Obama also wants all Americans to be informed about the virus and the steps they could take to better protect themselves from infection.

    On Monday, the World Health Organisation predicted the virus would spread to all countries across the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

    A study published recently in the British medical journal Lancet predicted the virus could be spread along the east and west coasts of the US and across much of the Midwest during warmer months, where about 200 million people live.