Zika Virus: The Emerging Pandemic

Zika Virus: The Emerging Pandemic

The Zika virus has been linked with thousands of the newborns, resulting in an underdeveloped brain. It has spread haphazardly which has alarmed the health service providers for the possible risks. The doctors have declared Zika virus as a pandemic in progress. It is highly affecting the pregnancies in the most prevalent areas of the world.

The Zika virus was first noticed in Uganda in 1947. It was observed in monkeys for the first time. The human cases of Zika virus were also initially reported from Uganda and it reached till the United Republic of Tanzania by 1952. After that it had an on and off breakouts which were never really very high. The recent years showed a significantly high rise in its outbreak which made its way to whole Africa, South East Asia, and Pacific Islands.  The common symptoms of the virus in affected people are as follows.

  • Mild to high fever
  • Body pains
  • Headache
  • Rashes
  • Conjunctivitis

The repercussion of Zika virus in pregnant mothers can develop is a nervous system disorder which is called Guillain-Barré syndrome. It causes a temporary paralysis of the brain. The baby in her womb is more likely to affect and get a microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition of the brain not developed as normal. The circumference measures less than 31.5- 32 cm which is way smaller than average. This condition affects more than 25,000 infants in the USA every year but the risks of microcephaly are higher with Zika virus.

Due to this increased risk, pregnant mothers are more likely to give birth to the Zika infected babies. These growth defects include malformation of the early brain, microcephaly, eye problems and other central nervous system-related defects.

This situation is way more critical than the normal mothers which experience central nervous system defects in their babies. In a comparison, these defects are only one out of 1000 births which is very low probability. On the other hand, the Zika hit mothers had central nervous system defects in 60 out of 1000 births which is an alarming situation.

Some government officials have suggested taking a control over pregnancies if Zika virus is suspected. The delay in pregnancies will reduce the chance of Zika infected newborns at large. The US Centre for Disease Control says that Zika virus can stay in the blood of a person for as long as one week. It is highly transmittable through the sexual intercourse. However, the virus will never show up or cause an infection until a pregnancy is conceived. More than the mother, it affects the baby so controlling the virus eventually needs a control over pregnancies.

The World Health Organization advises the married couples to follow safe sex practice. The international travel to the high prevalent areas has now added extra instructions, warnings  for the passengers and health status check before traveling.

The scientific researchers are suggesting to control the situation before it goes out of the hands. The mosquito season in North America is a favorable thing to study the virus in detail.

The global health officials initially alarmed with the Zika outbreak in Brazil which happened in 2015. After that, it was spread to North America, Caribbean, Mexico and now the Central America is affected too. For now, the US territory of Puerto Rico is at highest risk.

The World Health Organization explains the spread of Zika virus to have devastating consequences for future. It has now been declared as a public health emergency for international concern which is a serious global threat. In past, Ebola created a similar terror and now its Zika virus’s high time.

The USA is at a higher risk of Zika affected newborns. In Miami (2016) alone, 259 locally acquired Zika cases are reported. The causative agent of Zika is a mosquito which transmits the virus to the mother. In Texas, 310 reported cased of both local and travel based Zika cases have came in front of the health service providers. Similar reports from the other parts of the country suggest that the infection rate would be much higher in this year. Experts believe that the prevalence is much higher than the reported cases.

The evidence suggests that the people got an infection after one week of being bitten by the mosquito. For the body, it lives up to 7 days but in semen, it may live for more than two weeks. That is why the countries at higher risk have been focusing so much on safe sex practices. The blood donation is on a complete hold for the people who have visited the risky areas.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for it. There are no medicines to make the birth defects go away. Also, there is no vaccine to kill the virus before it causes a problem. The only thing which is helpful is to reduce the risk of being infected. The health officials have advised people to do the following.

  • Use mosquito repellent
  • Wear long sleeves especially in evening.
  • Keep windows and doors closed.
  • Empty the water buckets or flower pots.

and more importantly,

  • Not to travel to the affected areas.

The scientists from The National Institutes of Health (USA) say that a vaccine is under research for the Zika virus. It is still under experimentation. The launch of Zika vaccine depends on the results of vaccine trials. In the best possible situation, the vaccine will be available to the public by the end of 2018. Before that, the manual precautions should be essentially followed.

 

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The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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