Zika virus is spreading around the world, explosively in the Americas and has become a serious health concern. With new cases emerging every day, the Zika Virus is linked to neurological syndromes and alarming birth defects as it spread across many countries, in just a matter of few months.
Zika Virus and the Transmission
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus disease transmitted by infected Aedes genus mosquitoes, mainly the Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. Cases of possible Zika virus transmission through blood transfusion and sexual contact have also been reported. Zika belongs to Flavivirus genus of viruses, closely related to the viruses causing feverish illnesses like Dengue, Yellow fever and West Nile disease. It was first identified in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania back in 1952. Since then outbreaks of the Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. The virus is named after the Zika Forest near Lake Victoria in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947 from a captive Monkey.
The symptoms seen in a person infected with Zika Virus usually include a mild fever, headache, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis, i.e. red eyes. These symptoms generally last for two to seven days, and many people might not even realize they were infected. Zika virus is diagnosed through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and virus isolation from blood samples.
Zika Virus Dangers
In general, Zika virus disease is relatively mild and does not require any specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus usually recover well by taking plenty of rest, drinking enough fluids and treating the associated pain and fever with the common medicines. However, if the symptoms continue or worsen past seven days, people should seek proper medical care and advice, because currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available.
What makes the current Zika Virus outbreak scary is the major worry about its effects on pregnant women and their babies. There is growing evidence of a causal link between Zika virus infections in pregnant women causing a congenital disorder called Microcephaly in the babies born. In case of Microcephaly, the brain of the developing fetus fails to grow normally and the babies born are seriously deformed, mostly with small heads. Having small heads can again cause severe developmental issues and sometimes even death. There are also concerns of other neurological syndromes that can lead to life-threatening paralysis in the babies born.
Beginning in 2014, Brazil has seen an explosive growth in cases of Microcephaly and Zika transmission. There were more than 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly in infants born to women infected with Zika while pregnant. However, according to the World Health Organization WHO, more investigation is needed to understand the relationship between microcephaly in born babies and the Zika virus.
Because of the aforementioned concerns and lack of proper treatment and cure for Zika virus, officials in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica and El Salvador advised women to avoid getting pregnant as long as the Zika threat remains. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC advised pregnant women not to travel to the areas where Zika transmission is ongoing. WHO is likely to advise women in the Americas who want to get pregnant to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.
An official at the WHO said that the Zika virus disease has spread to 23 countries and many territories in the Americas, and in the American region over a 12-month period there can be “three to four million cases”. According to the U.S. CDC as well, outbreaks are occurring in many countries, especially in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Shown in the map picture of this article is how the Zika virus has spread to various regions around the world. As health experts warned the Zika outbreak is ballooning at an “extremely alarming” rate, the World Health Organization has called an emergency meeting to consider if it should be declared an international emergency. In past, there was huge outbreak of Zika virus in Micronesia and French Polynesia in the years 2007 and 2013 respectively, when very large proportions of the islands’ populations were affected. Shown in the video is a brief news report on current Zika Virus outbreak as for January 2016 ending.