Why is WHO freaked about Zika?

 

On February 1st, 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) announced a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

What’s the deal with Zika? Is it hype? Should we panic?

 

Zika Basics

According to WHO and Center for Disease Control (CDC):

~ Zika is a mosquito-borne virus carried by many species belonging to the aedes genre of mosquitos, found on all continents. This variety of mosquito also carries dengue, yellow fever, malaria and chikungunya (they are a busy species). These bastards bite during the day, so mosquito netting is not so helpful.

~ Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquito bite, but may also be transmitted from a mother to her embryo during pregnancy. It can also be sexually transmitted  – that’s right! Zika is in the blood for a week but remains active in semen for an unknown length of time. Ugh.

~ Zika’s incubation period is a few days to a week, duration of symptoms is a few days to a week and hospitalization is extremely rare. Like many viruses, once Zika infects a healthy person, they build immunity.

~ Zika is not typically dangerous in healthy adults. In fact, only one in five people infected develop symptoms – most common symptoms include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. 

Note: It’s been reported that if a healthy mosquito bites a person infected with Zika, the mosquito may become infected with Zika and pass Zika to the next person the mosquito bites.

 

photo from smh.com.au

photo from smh.com.au

photo from bbc.com

photo from bbc.com

photo from singh.se

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

  • Zika may cause congenital abnormalities (microcephaly) in a developing fetus if the mother is infected during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.
  • Zika is hard to test for because the pathogens in blood samples are quite similar to pathogens for diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya. Results can be false-positives, false-negatives or just inconclusive. Yeah, not really a perfect method.
  • There is no vaccine for Zika….it could be a year before we see one.
  • **Increased cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) have been reported in regions hit hard by Zika, which suggests a possible link – a direct link of GBS to Zika is not yet proven. 

GBS is an autoimmune disease sometimes triggered by infection (immune system attacks peripheral nerves) resulting in ascending paralysis, which usually resolves but can be life-threatening.

Intense daily research continues. Until we know more, caution is mandatory, particularly for women with child-bearing intentions. Even if you’re not pregnant should you be concerned? Yes. Be concerned and be cautious. The possible link to Guillain-Barre Syndrome and proven sexual transmission of Zika is definite reason for concern. Gosh, it sometimes seems like the planet has it in for mankind.

At this time options for expectant mothers infected with Zika are limited and time sensitive. 80% of people infected have no symptoms; so pregnant women who have traveled to effected areas (which currently includes most of Latin America) should definitely be tested if symptoms develop within two weeks of traveling. According to the CDC, testing is not indicated in pregnant women who have not traveled to an area with Zika transmission.

Testing for Mother: Blood should be tested within first week of infection for accuracy.

Testing for Fetus: Ultrasound in third trimester (twenty-seven weeks) can detect microcephaly or skull calcification, but may be seen as early as eighteen to twenty weeks. Amniocentesis at beginning of second trimester (fifteen weeks) can detect presence of Zika virus.

 

New-ish News

German biotech company, Genekam just developed a realtime Zika test that is very specific to the Zika virus. The results are reported to be immediate, reliable… and the cost? Five euros! Hopefully this new Zika test can bypass the typically lengthy governmental approval process, and be put to use soon.

United Kingdom company, Oxitec has developed a genetically modified mosquito, originally intended to help control Dengue but could now aid in the fight against Zika. The mosquito passes a lethal gene to it’s off-spring, which then dies before adulthood. Recent studies in Brazil reveal the release of these modified mosquitos could decrease the mosquito population by eighty percent. However, some ecologists suggest these modified Brazilian mosquitos could play a part in the worsening of Zika virus symptoms. Is this a GMO worth celebrating or not? Hard to say. Mosquitos kill hundreds of thousands of people a year. Considering ways to control the mosquito population seems like an obvious step in the right direction. Hmm. To be continued…..

Planning a trip? The CDC is updating travel notices, as indicated for anyone traveling to areas where Zika transmission is active. Incoming information seems to evolve daily.

Check the CDC website for information if you plan to travel to effected areas. Be safe and pack some deet!

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices 

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Have a happy healthy everything!

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