5 Important Questions and Answers on the ZIKA VIRUS
Question 2: Why all the sudden concern about ZIKA, especially for pregnant women?
At first glance it may seem that the ZIKA VIRUS is not a big deal. The incidence of ZIKA FEVER in those exposed to the ZIKA VIRUS is only around 20%, and even then the symptoms are relatively mind and of short duration. But recently scientists are discovering that there is likely a correlation between the ZIKA VIRUS and other health issues such as serious birth defects and immune system disorders.
Combine the above concerns with that fact that the ZIKA VIRUS is spreading very rapidly around the world in both mosquitoes, and via infected people bringing the virus with them to new areas. If those infected individuals are bitten by a mosquito during the week or two of their illness, the virus gets established in a new area as that infected mosquito begins to spread the virus locally. As more people become infected, whether they get ill with ZIKA FEVER or not, mosquito bites will spread the virus exponentially through the human population. In addition, with the suspected transmission of the ZIKA VIRUS from infected men to their sexual parnters, the disease can be spread even without the influence of mosquitoes.
There is a facinating and highly detailed map at the WHO that shows the spread of the ZIKA VIRUS from Africa in 1947 around the world (both east and west) up to today. A reduced copy of it appears below. Visit their website for the fully expanded version HERE
Countries and Territories Showing Historical Time-Line of ZIKA VIRUS Spread (1947-2016)
It is expected that the ZIKA VIRUS will eventually spread throughout the entire range of the mosquitoes types who can carry it.
The CDC periodically publishes a map of areas known to have mosquitoes actively transmitting the ZIKA VIRUS. Find the current map HERE
Below is an example of a recent map from the CDC:
CDC MAP of Reported Active Cases of Mosquito Transmission of the ZIKA VIRUS
The infected areas in the Caribbean, Central and South America are expanding. It is expected the the ZIKA VIRUS will soon make its way into the Southern United States as infected people are bitten by mosquitoes and the infected mosquito passes the virus on to everyone it bites. The two maps below show the expanding range of the two different types of mosquitoes so far identified as transfering the ZIKA VIRUS.(source)
Aedes AEGYPTI Mosquito Range Expansion Map(source)
Aedes ALBOPICTUS Mosquito Range Expansion Map(source).
Comparing the maps above, the expanding range of the two species of mosquito that carry the ZIKA VIRUS and the current report active cases, its easy to understand that urgency with which the CDC and WHO are trying to inform the public and address the ZIKA risk. The areas with active ZIKA VIRUS carrying mosquitos are expected to expand rapidly into the United States, Europe, Asia and beyond. Further, it is possible that other species of mosquito may also participate in the infection cycle, further expanding the range of the disease.
Laboratory Confirmed ZIKA VIRUS Cases in the United States (as of March 30, 2016)(source)
MicrocephalyWith the exposure of thousands, perhaps millions of people, the rate of serious birth defects and immune system disorders is also increasing. The toll in human suffering, not to mention medical expense, could be catastrophic.
As the ZIKA VIRUS outbreak spread to Brazil in 2015, there was a sudden rise in the number of babies born with the birth defect called microcephaly. This is where the brain does not fully develop during pregnancy, resulting in a smaller skull. Alternatively, the condition can result in a relatively normal brain and head size at birth at which point it stops growing. Sometimes there are additional major birth defects, sometimes not.
The correlation between the ZIKA VIRUS and microcephaly is still under study, but pregnant women or women who may become pregnant are cautioned by the CDC to defer or delay traveling to ZIKA infected areas if possible, and to take the appropriate precautions while in ZIKA infected areas. These include taking a ZIKA VIRUS TEST for themselves and the unborn child if they show any symptoms of ZIKA FEVER. Further to use all methods to prevent getting a mosquito bite or transference of the virus via contact with the bodily fluid of an infected individual. Those not yet pregnant are currently being cautioned to pospone getting pregnant until more is known.
Please Note: A recent report by Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) NEWS suggested that the rise in cases of microcephaly in Brazil dates back to 2012, BEFORE the ZIKA VIRUS arrived in the country. That overall cases of microcephaly had been under reported in the earlier years, and there were some issue on defining exactly what constituted a sub-normal head size. In addition, the more pronounced cases of microcephaly were confined mostly to a certain area of the country. This report casts some doubt on the link between the ZIKA VIRUS and microcephaly. You can view the original article and video report HERE . Stay tuned for further clarification on this issue.
Guillain-Barre SyndromeThe ZIKA VIRUS is also suspect in causing or contributing to a rare disorder call Guillain-Barre syndrome, also known as GBS. This is defined as when one's own immune system attacks their own nervous system, resulting in cell damage which leads to weakness and loss of muscle control, in some cases paralysis lasting weeks or months. Approximately 5% of patience die of the disease, though most fully recover.
Not much is known about the causes of Guillain-Barre syndrome, but with the recent uptick in cases in Brazil during the ZIKA VIRUS outbreak, scientists are exploring the connection.
In summary, despite the fact that the vast majority of people exposed to the ZIKA VIRUS will not even be aware that they have it in their systems, for pregnant women and others the disease may be a life changing event. The ZIKA VIRUS presents risk to us all and should be taken very seriously.
NEXT TOPIC: Question 3) Is there a vaccine, inocculation, cure, test or treatment for the ZIKA VIRUS?