The Zika virus is a flavivirus that has affected many people in the U.S. between January 1 and May 1, 2017.
During that time, statistics show that 110 Zika virus disease cases were reported in the U.S. Ninety-Four percent of those cases were people who had returned home from infected areas. Four percent were obtained from, presumably, local mosquito transmissions. The other two percent were gained through other routes such as; laboratory transmission, person-to-person through an unknown route, congenital infection, and sexual transmission.
Zika is a type of flavivirus, which is a positive, single-stranded, enveloped RNA virus. It is found in arthropods; primarily ticks and mosquitoes, and can occasionally infect humans.
The virus is most often spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species, which bite during the day and night. However, the first reported case was passed through sex.
It can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects. There is no vaccine or medication for this virus, and it is a growing problem in the United States.
Although many people infected with this virus do not experience symptoms, some do. However, they are mild. These include; muscle pain, red eyes, joint pain, fever headaches, and rashes. While these symptoms may not seem that bad, the virus could pose a risk to pregnant women.
Contracting the virus while pregnant could cause microcephaly, which affects the brain. Zika has also been linked stillbirths and miscarriages. Reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome have risen, which is an uncommon sickness of the nervous system.
Since there are no treatments available for Zika, there are measures that can, and should, be taken to avoid being bitten by a mosquito that may carry the virus. Moreover, there should be precautions taken to prevent getting the virus, altogether.
First, one should avoid going to Zika-infested areas. If they do go to an infected area, they should use a repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, and apply sunscreen. Additionally, they should wear long pants and thick long-sleeved shirts to block out mosquito bites. Among other things, they should also sleep in air-conditioned, screened rooms.
If one does contract Zika, a way to prevent it from spreading is to avoid additional mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
For women who are at the child-bearing age, the CDC recommends strategies to prevent unintended pregnancies, including counseling on family planning. For those who could transmit the Zika virus, the correct and consistent use of effective contraceptive methods.
Many precautions are attempted to stop this virus because it is “spreading explosively,” according to the CDC and WHO. The risks for pregnant women, or women who could become pregnant, are very dangerous for an unborn child.
Even though quite a few people have contracted the virus in the U.S., Zika did not originate there. The virus was first discovered in 1947, and it was named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. In 1952, the first human cases were detected.
Zika is present in many parts of the world, such as; Aruba, Barbados, Bolivia, Bonaire, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Saint Martin.
Researchers around the world are currently using their resources in an attempt to make a Zika vaccine. This is a work in progress, and it will new years before the scientists can find an effective cure. For now, though, health officials are using conventional mosquito control techniques to try to control the issue at its source.
Written by Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Cathy Milne
CNN: 5 things you need to know about Zika
National Geographic: Why Zika Is This Year’s Scary Virus
CDC: Zika Virus
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Ramón Portellano’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License