Zika Virus is a member of the Flavivirus family, which contains a number of diseases such as yellow fever, chikungunya, and West Nile virus. Zika virus, like the others, is carried by the Aedes mosquito as the main agent for transmission. This virus has mild symptoms but has been suggested to affect the unborn.1 The mosquito vector is common in the western hemisphere in every country except Canada and Chile. It’s breeding ground is standing, stagnant water. Brazil reported its first case in May 2015 but the situation has dramatically changed. Brazil is now considered the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which coincides with about 4,000 babies being born with microcephaly just since October. 2
The World Health Organization (WHO) is deeply concerned about this rapidly evolving situation. The Zika virus seems to have exploded out of no where. Discovered in 1947 in Africa and seen sporadically in Asia, it appears to have jumped the pond to the western hemisphere. Health officials in El Salvador have advised its young women to avoid pregnancy for at least two years due to the concerns about possible birth defects linked to the virus. 3 Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that they have confirmed evidence that links the Zika virus to the dangerous birth defect when genetic material of the Zika virus was found in brain tissue from two infants who had died with microcephaly.4
Symptoms of a viral infection include headache, rash, fever. and conjunctivitis. Lots of people may have been infected but have no symptoms. The genetic material (RNA) from the virus lingers in the blood stream and has been suggested to be transmitted through saliva and semen as well. 5 There is no vaccine or treatment available that is effective against Zika virus. Vaccine research is under way but will be months away because human testing has not been approved.6
Doctors at Red Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud (Environment and Health) have released a contradictory explanation for the microcephaly. According to their research that same area where most of the sick people live, has been subjected to a chemical larvicide (pyriproxyfen) introduced into the drinking water by State officials. Pyriproxyfen is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process of larvae to pupae adult, generating malformations in the developing mosquitoes, killing or disabling them.7
Who is right? There will be more info coming on this crisis.
Advice from health officials include 1. discouraging pregnant women from traveling to areas where the outbreak is prevalent because the virus infection can damage developing babies. 2. Avoid mosquito bites by covering skin when going outside as well as applying mosquito repellant. 3. If you have traveled to areas of outbreak and develop flu-like symptoms, get tested to confirm it. 4. Please avoid additional mosquito bites by using repellant. 5. The biggest fear of spreading in the northern hemisphere right now is infecting local mosquitoes who will then multiply the infection. There are currently 72 confirmed cases in the US.
Billie Nicholson, Editor