Zika updates: First case confirmed in China, experts say infection causes eye damage in babies

Researchers in the US have said Zika virus infection can cause eye abnormalities in babies that threaten vision,

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Zika confirmed in China
Daniele Santos, 29, holds her son Juan Pedro who is 2-months old and born with microcephaly, after bathing him at their house in Recife, Brazil, February 9, 2016 Reuters

China has confirmed a case of Zika virus infection in the country amid fears over a global spread of the virus linked to brain damage in newborn babies.

China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) said late Tuesday the infection was an imported case.

The patient, a 34-year-old male from Ganxian county of Jiangxi province, is now recovering, Xinhua news agency reported.

The patient had travelled to Venezuela in January, where he experienced symptoms of fever, headache and dizziness. He returned to China on February 5 and his symptoms evolve into fading rash accompanied with normal body temperature.

He has been quarantined in a hospital in Ganxian where he is undergoing treatment.

The NHFPC told the public there was very low risk of infection spreading from this imported case.

Meanwhile researchers in the US have said Zika virus infection can cause eye abnormalities in babies that threaten vision, apart from microcephaly, a condition in which children are born with unusually small heads.

"Congenital infection due to presumed ZIKV exposure is associated with vision-threatening findings, which include bilateral macular and perimacular lesions as well as optic nerve abnormalities in most cases," researchers said in a paper published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Also in the US, health officials confirmed they have found two cases of Zika virus infection in Ohio state, while two pregnant women in Pennsylvania were infected with the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the rise in cases of brain damage in newborn babies caused by Zika virus a global public health emergency.

According to the WHO the virus has spread to 25 countries in the central and south Americas. Cases have also been reported in the Southeast Asia, Europe and New Zealand.

The virus doesn't spread directly from person to person. Vaccines are not available to counter the disease and there is no specific treatment for it. Meanwhile, scientists in the US, who likened Zika outbreak to the Ebola crisis, said it could be years before a vaccine is publicly available.

This article was first published on February 10, 2016