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The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya, which it sees as an “emerging global health threat”.
The mosquito-borne disease causes fever and joint pains and can be fatal to newborns.
The FDA’s approval is expected to speed up the vaccine’s global rollout.
This year, about 440,000 chikungunya cases, including 350 deaths, have been reported as of September.
There is currently no specific drug to treat chikungunya. South America and South Asia have seen the most number of cases this year.
The vaccine named Ixchiq has been approved for those aged 18 and above and are at high risk of contracting the disease, the FDA said on Friday. It was developed by Europe’s Valneva and will be administered in a single shot.
“Infection with chikungunya virus can lead to severe disease and prolonged health problems, particularly for older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions,” senior FDA official Peter Marks said.
At least five million chikungunya cases have been reported since 2008, the FDA said. Other symptoms include rashes, headaches and muscle pain. Joint pains can persist for months or even years.
People in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and parts of the Americas are at the highest risk of infection because mosquitos carrying the chikungunya virus are endemic in these areas.
“However, chikungunya virus has spread to new geographical areas causing a rise in global prevalence of the disease,” the FDA said.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that Brazil has had the highest number of cases so far this year with 218,613.
More than 93,000 cases have also been reported in India, where the capital Delhi saw a large outbreak in 2016.