January 16, 2016 10:11 am
Updated: January 16, 2016 10:19 am

Vaccine for Zika virus to be developed in Brazil

This 2006 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host. On Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, U.S. health officials are telling pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin America and Caribbean countries with outbreaks of a tropical illness linked to birth defects. The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites from Aedes aegypti and causes only a mild illness in most people. But there’s been mounting evidence linking the virus to a surge of a rare birth defect in Brazil.

James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP

SAO PAULO – The Brazilian government says it is directing funds to a biomedical research centre to help develop a vaccine against a virus linked to brain damage in babies.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro says the goal is to develop “in record time” a vaccine for Zika, which is spread through mosquito bites.

READ MORE: What pregnant women need to know about Zika virus and travel

Zika infection in pregnant women has been linked to a rare condition called microcephaly, in which the head is smaller than normal and the brain does not develop properly.

Brazil’s Health Ministry says 3,530 babies have been born with microcephaly in the country since October.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert Friday advising pregnant women to avoid travelling to Brazil and several other countries in the Americas where Zika outbreaks have occurred.

WATCH: Mosquito-borne Zika virus making its way to North America

© 2016 The Associated Press

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