18:52 GMT +321 February 2019
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    The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is photographed in a lab at the Ministry of Health of El Salvador, in San Salvador

    World Bank Provides $150Mln ‘Immediately Available’ to Fight Zika Virus

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    The World Bank joined a global effort to battle an epidemic of birth defects linked to the Zika virus, offering $150 million in immediate funding to affected countries, according to a press release issued by the bank on Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The mosquito-borne disease is spreading internally in about 40 nations, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Health Organization. Though the virus poses little threat to the overall population, pregnant women who contract the disease are giving birth to babies with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

    "This amount is based on current country demands for financing, and follows extensive engagement with governments across the region."

    This World Bank announcement was accompanied by the release of initial projections that the short-term economic impact of the Zika virus will total $3.5 billion in the affected regions, the release added.

    "Our analysis underscores the importance of urgent action to halt the spread of the Zika virus and to protect the health and well-being of people in the affected countries," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in the release. "The World Bank Group stands ready to support the countries affected by this health crisis and to provide additional support if needed."

    At least 15 major drug companies are racing to develop a Zika vaccine, with large trials expected to begin in about 18 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control.


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