Zika Virus spreads to North America
The virus transmitted by mosquitoes can cause microcephaly in fetuses and newborns.
The Zika virus is phylogenetically similar to those of dengue and yellow fever. It was first discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda, in 1947.
Apparently observers found that monkeys who were being monitored to control yellow fever were also infected with the virus.
The Zika virus was relatively unknown until 2007 when there was a large outbreak on the island of Yap and other islands off the Federated States of Micronesia. The result of the outbreak was a total of 8,187 people infected.
Between October 2013 and February 2014 a new outbreak arrived in French Polynesia, where it is believed that 8,264 new cases of Zika were detected.
According to scientists, Zika’s main mode of transmission is through the same insect that transmits dengue: the Aedes aegypti mosquito. But there are cases of sexual transmission as well, as the virus may remain alive in sperm for longer periods of time.
Sika can also survive and be transmitted during the perinatal period and be transmitted from mother to fetus via blood. The virus is not transmitted through breastfeeding.
The vast majority of infected people do not develop clinical symptoms right away, but when they do, they are characterized by red spots on the skin, intermittent fever, spots on the eyes and pains in muscles, joints and head.
Less frequently, doctors have detected edema, sore throat, cough, vomiting and blood in the semen. Symptoms generally disappear spontaneously after a period that can range from three to seven days. However, joint pains may persist for up to a month.
Up until now, scientists say there is no treatment for the Zika virus. Some symptoms can be controlled with the use of acetaminophen or dipyrone, to manage the fever and pain.
In the case of itchy rashes, patients can consider the use of anti-histamines. It is not a good idea to use aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs, due to an increased risk of bleeding complications.
In late November, after a high incidence of microcephaly in some states of Brazil, where there was also an increase in the number of cases of Zika, the Ministry of Health confirmed the relationship between both diseases.
Evidence emerged after a study that detected the virus in blood samples collected from a baby born with microcephaly in Ceará. The baby died eventually.
It is not yet known how the virus operates once it is inside the human body or what mechanisms lead to microcephaly, but cases are being investigated.
In Brazil, the latest epidemiological bulletin recorded 3,530 cases of microcephaly related to Zika virus infections between October 2015 and early 2016. Health authorities are investigating 46 deaths of babies with microcephaly, that are being regarded as consequences of Zika virus infections.
Last week, the United States recorded the first case of microcephaly related to Zika virus in Hawaii. According to The New York Times, the baby’s mother would have been infected when she traveled to Brazil in May last year.
In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends that pregnant women not to travel to 14 countries in Latin America; including Brazil, Puerto Rico and Colombia.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Health recommends that pregnant women protect themselves from insect bites. To this end, it suggests avoiding the times and places where there is presence of mosquitoes, wear clothing that protects most of the body and use repellents.
As so now, the prime suspect of causing the Zika virus is the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which makes it difficult to prevent its spread.
This mosquito also transmits four types of dengue and chikungunya, a disease that attacks the joints and causes severe pain.
The mosquito thrives in clean standing water, so it is important to prevent this buildup in tires, potted plants and other open containers. To avoid bites, use repellant and put screens on the windows and doors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only in 2015, Zika cases were confirmed in nine American countries: Brazil, Chile -in the Easter Island, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.
This week, US authorities confirmed the first case of Zika in the country: a man who lives in Texas and recently visited El Salvador.
In Brazil, last year 1.6 million suspected cases of dengue were reported.
Because Zika is considered a mild type of dengue its cases are often accounted for as that disease instead of Zika.
Colombia is another country with a high number of infected patients: at least 11,000 cases have been confirmed according to the latest information obtained in that country.
In Brazil, so far, the Ministry of Health has confirmed three deaths that may have been related to Zika virus: a baby, a man who also had lupus and a girl of 16 years of age.