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Spain announces first known European case of Zika virus

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MADRID — Spain on Thursday confirmed that a pregnant woman has infected with the Zika virus, the first such known European case.

“One of the patients diagnosed in (the northeastern region of) Catalonia is a pregnant woman, who showed symptoms after having travelled to Colombia,” the health ministry announced, adding she is one of seven cases in Spain and all are in good condition.

The mosquito-borne virus — thought to cause birth defects — has seen an outbreak in the Americas and health authorities have warned it could infect up to four million people on the continent and spread worldwide.

Spain’s health ministry nevertheless sought to ease concerns, pointing out that all seven patients had caught the disease abroad.

“Up to now, the diagnosed cases of Zika virus in Spain… don’t risk spreading the virus in our country as they are imported cases,” it said.

So far in Europe, all those diagnosed with the disease caught it while travelling abroad, and none of them were pregnant — until now.

The news comes a day after South American health ministers held an emergency meeting in Uruguay on the disease.

The meeting focused on ways to control the mosquito population spreading the virus, though reports of a US patient catching the disease by having sex fuelled fears that it will not be easy to contain.

Brazil said it was sending more than 500,000 personnel out to clean up mosquito breeding grounds and advise people about the disease.

The World Health Organization has declared the spike in serious birth defects an international emergency and launched a global Zika response unit.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and the US territory of Puerto Rico have all warned women not to get pregnant.

There is no specific treatment for Zika, and several pharmaceutical companies are developing vaccines against it.

Indian drugs company Bharat Biotech, for instance, said it was developing the world’s first Zika vaccine and was ready to test it on animals.

Zika, which is spreading through the Americas, has been linked to babies being born with underdeveloped brains.

The disease starts with a mosquito bite and normally causes little more than a fever and rash. The virus has also been linked to a potentially paralysing nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome in some patients.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the microcephaly condition, linked to the mosquito-borne virus, a global public health emergency.

AFP

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Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wins presidency

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MALE — Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has beaten incumbent Abdulla Yameen according to provisional results, the country’s Elections Commission says.

Results released by the Elections Commission showed Mr Solih securing 133,808 votes (58.3 percent) compared to the 95,526 for incumbent Abdulla Yameen. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 262,000-strong electorate.

The Maldives government has acknowledged the opposition’s victory after the vote on Sunday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen who was widely expected to win.

There were no other candidates.

Mr Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Mr Yameen, but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

“I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power,” Solih said on television, shortly after interim results from the country’s election commission.

“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” Solih said.

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