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S. Korean military vows to prevent spread of Zika virus

All Headlines 10:49 April 01, 2016

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry said Friday it has ordered its troops to step up efforts to prevent the outbreak of the Zika virus after the country confirmed its first case in March.

The military's move came as a 43-year-old man tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus last month after he traveled to Brazil and confirmed he was bitten by a mosquito during his trip.

"The government ordered the ministry on Thursday to strengthen efforts to effectively deal with the virus as mosquitoes start to become active at end-April," an official source said.

He said the military will actively take preventive measures against the virus till October, with the government planning to provide additional chemicals to kill off mosquito larvae.

The virus was first discovered in Africa, and has spread to parts of Asia and Latin America, including many Caribbean countries. In Asia, China and Japan have reported several isolated cases, although neither have reported a full-fledged outbreak.

The first infection case in South Korea raised some concerns over the possible spread of the virus here following an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) last year. Many experts, however, said the chances of a full-blown outbreak are slim, especially in the cooler months when mosquitoes are not active. The virus can be passed on through blood transfusion or sexual intercourse.

The virus is almost always non-life threatening and only poses health concerns for pregnant women and their unborn babies, who may be born with abnormally small heads and improperly developed brains.

"We will ramp up efforts to prevent the Zika virus from spreading within the military, based on our experience of containing the MERS virus," the ministry said.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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