Original article published in NEWSWEEK BY DAMIEN SHARKOV ON 1/29/16 AT 6:01 PM
Russia is working on a vaccine to combat the Zika virus, even though the country is not at risk of contamination, Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova has told state news agency RIA Novosti.
The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes across the Americas and in areas in Africa near the equator. Symptoms are mild and infections can be sometimes difficult to detect, however it can have severe effects on pregnant women and their babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern on Thursday, claiming the virus was “spreading explosively” after cases were reported in South America and the U.S..
Russian scientists are currently working on completing a patent on their first quick diagnosis method for the virus, a patent on which is planned to be completed by March. According to Skvortsova, Russia is working on the vaccine on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request.
“We know that such an epidemic does not threaten us… We do not have the natural fauna that would carry the infection,” the health minister said.
However, she highlighted that the project is going ahead for two reasons. Firstly, Russia is pursuing the development of “a full inventory of vaccines” and, secondly, it is also planning to ship the vaccine abroad in order to combat the spread of Zika globally.
Recently, Putin also boasted that Russia had developed two treatments to combat the Ebola virus, that devastated west Africa since summer 2014. He described one of the two vaccines as “100 percent effective”, although public tests have not taken place as Russia is not publically known to have had registered cases of Ebola.