The Zika virus

An aedes aegypti mosquito is seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

An aedes aegypti mosquito is seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

The Zika virus has made its way into the news and is causing concern among travelers as they begin to plan their summer vacations.  My neighbor approached me about altering her vacation choices because of recent reports.  The media has been prone to sensationalism so I’ve done some research on this topic related to my industry.  I’m not a medical or scientific expert and I’m not offering advice.  The following is information I have found interesting.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines Zika as a virus transmitted by the bite of a female mosquito or sexually transmitted from a male partner.  Symptoms of mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, fatigue, muscle and joint pain may appear 3-12 days after the bite and last from 2-7 days.  Although 80% of people don’t have symptoms.  4 out of 5 infected people can be carriers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides this timeline.

  • 1947- Zika virus isolated in Uganda in Rhesus monkeys.
  • 1952- First human case reported.
  • 60’s-80’s- Isolated to a band of countries across equatorial Africa.
  • 2007- Spread to Asia and separated into two distinct strains.
  • 2014-Possible link to birth defect, microcephaly, abnormally small skull that can result in developmental problems, making pregnant women, or those desiring to become pregnant, most at risk.
  • 2016-Declared to be an international public health concern. Not considered deadly.

April 6, 2016 Reuters reported the CDC statement of 275 travel related cases reported in the USA with more than 30 states at high risk for transmission.    An April 11, 2016 report from the same source informs that Brazilian scientists found a new Zika-linked brain disorder in adults, Auto Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which provokes an immune attack on the central nervous system and can cause temporary paralysis and respiratory issues.  However, “conclusive proof may take months or years” to confirm.

Also according to the CDC, active Zika virus transmission does not appear to be a major threat in the United States and people develop an immunity, not posing a problem for future pregnancies.  The Red Cross restricts blood donations from people who have recently visited high risk areas for only a month as a precaution against infection, indicating victims are not tainted for life. 

No vaccine is currently available.  To relieve symptoms, the CDC recommends rest, rehydration and use of acetaminophen for fever or pain.  Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen should be avoided.   

What precautions can be taken? 

  • Pregnant women may want to avoid travel to Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Eliminate breeding sites such as sources of standing water.
  • Avoid bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, use repellents and sleep with netting.

In summary, the CDC states the following:

Seriousness~ MILD

Prevalence~ EXTREMELY RARE

Monetary Cost~ LOW

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