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Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) first detected the new virus strain in the country last year after monitoring genetic sequences. The discovery was published in early June in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The scientists from Fiocruz found the strain circulated the South American country in 2019 in two geographically distant states: Rio Grande do Sul and Rio de Janeiro.
Artur Queiroz, one of the researchers of the study, said: “We take this data and we analyse it, we select the sequences from Brazil and we show the frequency of these viral types year after year.
“The main finding is that we see a variation of subtypes and lineages over the years, and in 2019, a lineage appears that until then hadn’t circulated in the country.”
Two strains of the virus are known: the Asian and African.
According to scientists, this strain found in Brazil is of African origin.
The study claims that due to the geographical distance and the difference between the host of the strain, this type of zika has been in the country for some time.
This has led to fears of a potential epidemic of the virus as most of the Brazilian population do not have antibodies against the new strain.
Brazil’s Ministry of Health reported Zika cases have been the fewest this year with just 3,692.
Compared to other viruses such as Chikungunya (47,105) and dengue (823,738), the figure is relatively low.
However, scientists are concerned this figure could rise dramatically if a new genetic strain begins to circulate around the population.
Since 2015, the Zika virus has caused nearly 4,000 babies to be born with microcephaly – a condition where the head circumference is smaller than normal.
Official data indicates this was caused after the vast majority of mothers contracted Zika virus during pregnancy.
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Scientists established a connection between babies born with microcephaly and the disease among their mothers.
The Ministry of Health officially recognised the connection 2015, a year after the start of the epidemic.
The World Health Organisation then issued a global alert.
Zika is an infection spread mainly by mosquitoes found in parts of the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
The infection often has no symptoms but some people get symptoms like a rash, high temperature, headache or muscle aches for a few days.
There’s no treatment for a Zika virus but it is usually caught by being bitten by an infected mosquito.
As well as a potential outbreak of a deadly strain of Zika virus, Brazil is also battling with COVID-19.
Brazil became the second country pass 50,000 death due to the deadly pandemic.
Its president Jair Bolsonaro described coronavirus as “a little flu” but the South American country now has the second worst death toll in the world.
With more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19, Brazil is the second-worst affected country from the virus, behind only the US.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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