Zika virus: Vladimir Putin orders Russian scientists to develop vaccine

Russia has expressed a desire to export the vaccine once it's finished

Russia is developing a vaccine for the Zika virus on Vladimir Putin’s orders.

Although the country is not at risk from contamination, its president has voiced concern that people can still take planes and may come from South and Central America to Russia. 

The virus is transmitted by mosquitos in some parts of Africa and across the Americas.

Symptoms are mild and cold-like, but the virus can have a severe effect on pregnant women and their babies. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus is “spreading explosively”.

“We know that such an epidemic does not threaten us… We do not have the natural fauna that would carry the infection,”  health minister Veronika Skvortsova told state news agency RIA Novosti. 

Russian scientists hope to have the patent ready for testing by March, and plan to export the vaccine to countries with the Zika virus.

Ms Skvortsova explained how Russia is also pursuing the treatment to develop “a full inventory of vaccines”.

According to Dr Margaret Chan, head of the WHO, Zika has changed from “a mild threat to one of alarming proportions”.

Travellers, especially those who are pregnant, are being advised to avoid travel to the Americas, as Zika is said to lead to potential brain defects in babies. 

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