US of­fi­cials study virus link to birth de­fects


US health of­fi­cials are step­ping up ef­forts to study the link be­tween in­fec­tions from a mos­quito-borne virus and birth de­fects in in­fants.

They are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Zika virus amid pre­dic­tions that it will cir­cu­late widely in the United States dur­ing warmer months.

The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health called on Tues­day for the in­ten­si­fied ef­forts, cit­ing a study es­ti­mat­ing that the virus could reach re­gions where 60 per­cent of the US pop­u­la­tion lives.

The virus has been linked to brain dam­age in thou­sands of ba­bies in Brazil.

There is no vac­cine or treat­ment for Zika, a close cousin of dengue and chikun­gunya, which causes mild fever and a rash. An es­ti­mated 80 per­cent of peo­ple in­fected have no symp­toms, mak­ing it diffi for preg­nant women to know whether they have been in­fected.

On Tues­day, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama called for the rapid de­vel­op­ment of tests, vac­cines and treat­ments to fight the Zika virus.

“The pres­i­dent em­pha­sized the need to ac­cel­er­ate re­search ef­forts to make avail­able bet­ter di­ag­nos­tic tests, to de­velop vac­cines and ther­a­peu­tics, and to en­sure that all Amer­i­cans have in­for­ma­tion about the virus,” the White House said in a state­ment.

Health of­fi­cials in Vir­ginia said a res­i­dent from the state who trav­eled out­side the US had tested pos­i­tive for the virus.

The adult trav­eled re­cently to a coun­try where Zika virus trans­mis­sion was on­go­ing and the in­fec­tion was con­firmed through test­ing by the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health said.

In China, health au­thor­i­ties are track­ing the spread of the Zika virus, He Xiong, deputy di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing Cen­ter for Dis­ease Preven­tion and Con­trol, said on Wed­nes­day

“We are fully pre­pared and will take ef­fec­tive mea­sures in case it spreads to China,” he said, adding that the virus has not been found in the coun­try, but peo­ple should re­main alert.

In Panama, au­thor­i­ties said that by Satur­day, the north­east com­mu­nity of Guna Yala had reg­is­tered 42 cases of the Zika virus.

A Dan­ish tourist re­turn­ing from Latin Amer­ica has also been di­ag­nosed with the virus.


Con­cep­cion Pic­ciotto, a woman known for her decades of protest­ing against nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and other world is­sues from a peace camp across the street from the White House, died on Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton at the age of 80. Pic­ciotto, also known as Con­nie and Con­chita, had been camp­ing out in Lafayette Square since 1981. Many Chi­nese also re­mem­bered her well. “I am so sad to hear that. I ad­mired her strong con­vic­tion,” said Qiao Ling, a Chi­nese tourist. The group that or­ga­nizes the in­stal­la­tion said in a state­ment on Tues­day that Pic­ciotto held the vigil the long­est of any vol­un­teer. In­set: Pic­ciotto protest­ing out­side the White House on April 24, 2011. Right: flow­ers placed by mourn­ers on Tues­day out­side the peace camp set up by Pic­ciotto.

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