Nothing Rhymes with Zika, except for Eureka! Which is totally inappropriate. I am alluding to the Zika virus which has quickly infiltrated the media because of the devastating effects the virus has had on fetal cranial development. What is it? How dangerous is it? Should we be worried?
Here are the facts:
- The Zika virus is BAD especially if you are a fetus inside a woman who is affected
- The Zika virus is transmitted by the mosquito, Aedes aegypti (the same mosquito that transfers Dengue and Chikungunya)
- The Zika virus was first discovered in the 1950’s, but has received international attention when it was found in Brazil in May 2015
- Since then >3500 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly, a serious and often life-threatening malformation of the skull that leads to abnormal brain development
The Zika virus isn’t new, it was first discovered in the 1950’s and has remained isolated to Africa, SE Asia, and the Pacific Islands. It has traveled via its mosquito vector to Mexico, Somoa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean in recent years. It wasn’t until the catastrophic discovery of >3500 babies born with microcephaly in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016 that the world took notice.
The CDC has issued travel advisories for pregnant women and some countries including Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica are advising women against getting pregnant until further information is gathered.
The virus is transferred from mosquito to human via bite. For 80% of those infected there are no symptoms. For others, it can result in a mild illness with fever, joint pain, rash and conjunctivitis (pink eye) that can last from 1-7 days. For some it has resulted in Guillain Barre Syndrome and hospitalization, but this is rare.
The mosquitoes tend to bite during the day. The CDC recommends wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants in areas affected, using mosquito netting if spending prolonged time outdoors, application of mosquito repellants, and emptying any sources of standing water. Pregnant woman that are suspected to be infected or exposed should seek medical attention. Providers will likely perform serial ultrasounds to evaluate fetal head development and refer to a maternal/fetal specialist. There is no known treatment for the fetus and the transmission and infectivity rates are not fully understood.
Here’s my Eureka! moment. The Summer Olympics are scheduled to start in August 2016 and will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. People from all over the world will be flocking to the area, staying a short time and then returning to their homes. Could this be the beginning of a worldwide epidemic?
The mosquito that carries the Zika virus, also known as Aedes aegypti, in direct relationship to global warming trends, have been moving their way into more northern latitudes increasing its range of infectivity. The Zika virus and the Aedes aegypti mosquito have most recently been found in Puerto Rico, about 1000 miles from the Florida coast.
Travelers to endemic countries returning home could allow for local spread of the Zika virus into otherwise unaffected regions, regions that prior to increasing temperatures would not have been habitable to the Aedes aegypti mosquito. So far no Zika virus has been isolated in mosquitoes found in North America.