14:50 GMT09 May 2021
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    Australia on Sunday pledged $500,000 in aid to help combat the spread of the Zika virus in Tonga and other Pacific nations, Steven Ciobo, minister for the Pacific, said in a statement.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier this week, the United States added Jamaica and Tonga to its growing list of countries that pregnant women should avoid amid the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

    “Stopping the spread of Zika in the Pacific is essential to protecting Australia from the virus, which has seen a resurgence in our region,” Ciobo said.

    According to the statement, the initial focus of the aid program will be on strengthening prevention and response capacity to the virus in Tonga.

    Australia will work with the Tonga Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on controlling the mosquito population and increasing access to testing, the statement added.

    The Zika virus primarily affects monkeys and humans and is transmitted by daytime-active mosquitoes. A causal relationship between the Zika virus and neurological disorders including microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with small heads, is strongly suspected, although not yet confirmed.

    The Zika outbreak started in Brazil in spring 2015. It has since spread across Latin America, allegedly causing several deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has branded the current Zika virus outbreak a public health emergency.

    No vaccine is available to treat the Zika virus.

    Zika Virus, Tonga, Australia
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