The mosquito-borne Zika virus is drawing global attention due to its rapid spread and its possible connection to a rare neurological birth defect. The virus is spreading fast across the Americas, and WHO expects 3-4 million people to be infected over the next year. In January 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued travel guidance on affected countries, including the use of enhanced precautions, and guidelines for pregnant women including considering postponing travel.
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What is Zika virus infection?
Zika virus infection is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, usually causing mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain. The virus was isolated for the first time in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. Since then, it has remained mainly in Africa, with small and sporadic outbreaks in Asia. In 2007, a major epidemic was reported on the island of Yap (Micronesia), where nearly 75% of the population was infected.
In May 2015, the public health authorities of Brazil confirmed the transmission of Zika virus in the northeast of the country. Since October 2015, other countries and territories of the Americas have reported the presence of the virus.
How is Zika virus transmitted?
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya.
Is there a relationship between Guillain-Barré syndrome and Zika virus?
An increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been observed in areas where a Zika virus epidemic has been documented (e.g., in French Polynesia and Brazil).
However, a direct causal relationship has not been established between Zika virus infection and GBS. Prior infection with dengue or genetic factors could contribute to or increase cases of GBS. Several studies are underway to better establish the relationship between Zika and GBS.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Does Zika virus infection in pregnant women cause birth defects ie microcephaly?
Babies with microcephaly have unusually small heads. In roughly 15 percent of cases, a small head is just a small head, and there is no effect on the infant. But in the remainder of cases, the infant’s brain may not have developed properly during pregnancy or may have stopped growing in the first years of life. These children may experience a range of problems, like developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss. There is no treatment for an unusually small head.
Is there a vaccine?
There is no vaccine against the Zika virus. Efforts to make one have just begun, and creating and testing a vaccine normally takes years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars.
Which areas are affected?
Zika is currently present in 24 countries and territories, 22 of which are in the Americas.
What’s being done to prevent Zika?
Since the primary transmitter of Zika is the Aedes mosquito, efforts are being made to prevent reproduction by eliminating their breeding grounds. The mosquitoes lay eggs near standing water, so officials are encouraging those in the affected areas to empty out containers where water can pool, such as buckets, flower pots, old tires or pets’ water bowls, especially if they’re close to a residence.
Another way to prevent transmission is to avoid mosquito bites. The use of mosquito repellent, clothing that covers most of the body, mosquito nets at night and screens on windows and doors will all help prevent bites.
Source : CDC, BBC, WHO & Wiki
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