The Zika virus is contracted through mosquito bites, and is a single-stranded RNA virus, related to dengue, chikungunya, and west nile viruses. The Aedes aegypti, specifically is the mosquito able to transmit this virus and is found in the Southern US. Outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. The best way to protect against the virus is to avoid mosquito bites, such as using insect repellents, netting, etc.
According to the CDC stats 1 out of 5 people infected with the Zika virus will become ill, that is show symptoms. These symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache, muscle pain, or headache. Generally the symptoms will be mild lasting only a few days and rarely require hospitalization. Currently there are no vaccines or medication to treat Zika, individuals must treat the symptoms.
The CDC lists that the Zika virus can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth, with the exact mode of perinatal transmission unknown. There are reports and articles that link an association between Zika virus infection and congenital microcephaly, especially in Brazil. Studies are underway to investigate this possible connection. Until more is known, the CDC recommends pregnant women should consider postponing travel to an area with active Zika virus transmission. In the Americas many countries are urging the women living there to avoid getting pregnant. El Salvadore asked women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018, with more evidence emerging showing that women who contracted zika in the first or second trimester can pass the virus to the infants leading to microcephaly. Similar warnings have been issued in Brazil, Colombia, and Jamaica.
There have also been reports that n some cases the Zika virus appears to be linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe autoimmune disorder. Recently there a couple of cases suggesting the Zika vius was sexually transmitted. In Brazil scientists have been able to find Zika Virus present in human saliva and urine. Further studies are needed to determine if the virus could be transmitted through saliva and urine.
With the growing threat of the virus spreading into the United States, health officials are trying to develop a vaccine. Some of the companies said to looking at possible vaccines are Pfizer Inc, Johnson and Johnson, Merck & Co, Sanofi and Takeda. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease is calling for an all hands on deck. They are looking for vaccine development and better tests to detect the virus. There is also a push for more research to truly gain an understanding of the Zika virus and its potential threat to the population and pregnancies.
Sources and additional reading links:
CDC site for listed travel safety advisories:
Written by Michelle Mader, PhD
Feb 23th, 2016