Zika Confirmed In Angola, Vaccine Now In Its First Phase Of Trials In US

Zika Confirmed In Angola, Vaccine Now In Its First Phase Of Trials In US

Two cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in Angola, but it is uncertain whether they involve the African strain, which has been present in the region for decades, or the Asian strain, which has affected 1.5 million people, according to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Angola has reported a case involving a French tourist who has since left the country and a second case in Luanda, the country’s capital, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, citing an Angolan public health official.

The Zika strain responsible for the outbreak in Brazil and elsewhere has not been reported on the African mainland, Associated Press reported. The World Health Organization said in May that the strain had infected people in Cape Verde, an island nation off Africa’s West coast.

A $54.2 million grant in 2016 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funding a candidate Zika virus vaccine now in its first phase of trials, the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response said yesterday in a statement.

The vaccine, developed by Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses novel messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. That’s technology that triggers the body’s natural processes to produce proteins inside the human cell, according to Nature.com.

The U.S. may provide up to $125.5 million more in funding for the vaccine.

At least 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika, mainly in Brazil, and more than 1,600 babies have been born with microcephaly, Eyewitness News reported. If a pregnant women is infected, the Zika virus can cause a birth defect that affects the size of the baby’s head.

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In the U.S., 216 cases of locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika have been reported as of Jan. 4, 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The U.S. has reported an additional 4,618 travel-associated cases, and one laboratory-acquired case for a total of 4,835 cases. Sexually transmitted cases total 38.

The Asian strain is the one affecting countries in the Americas. It’s not known if exposure to the African strain gives protection against the Asian strain, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

In May 2016, genetic sequencing found that the virus linked to an outbreak in Cape Verde was the Asian Zika strain. It was the first known detection of that subtype in the African region.

The World Health Organization has confirmed that cases in Guinea-Bissau were not the same strain as the Zika in the Americas, Africa Times reported. Gabon has reported Zika cases, but they were prior to the 2015 and 2016 outbreak.

Tanzanian health officials in December denied cases of the Zika virus in the country, despite the alarm over test results released in a study by the National Institute for Medical Research.

Zika was first seen in Uganda in 1947. It was reported in Africa and Asia before it emerged as a global health threat in 2015, Africa Times reported.

A viral disease carried by mosquitoes, Zika has spread to more than 60 countries since an outbreak in Brazil in 2015, raising fears of the the rare birth defect microcephaly.

“Up until two months ago, we didn’t’t have any detected case, but, now we have two cases of Zika,” Health Minister José Luis Gomes Sambo told reporters in Luanda, Reuters reported.

Angola is recovering from a yellow fever outbreak which began in a densely-populated Luanda slum and spread into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nearly 12 million people were vaccinated against yellow fever in Angola and the DRC in a campaign led by the World Health Organization.