by Manpreet Singh
On January 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started its Emergency Operations Center to face the outbreak of the Zika virus in America. According to the CDC, there has been an increase in reports of birth defects and Guillain- Barré syndrome in areas where Zika has reached.
The virus is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is related to yellow fever and the West Nile virus. However, only the female mosquitoes bite people since they need the blood to lay their eggs. The mosquitoes get the virus from their victim’s blood and then inject it in their next meal. Additionally, the virus can be sexually transmitted which therefore creates a second avenue for the virus to spread.
According to Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, an official of theWorld Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, the lack of immunity to Zika and the spread of viral mosquitoes most “everywhere in the Americas” from Argentina to the southern United Statesexplains the speed of its transmission.
Before 2015, the Zika virus mostly affected areas in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. It was discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda and it did not begin spreading in the Western Hemisphere until last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil.The virus continues to spread and there is no cure or way of tracking the virus’s path, but it is more likely to spread in humid areas.
The virus got to the United States though travel; with millions of people entering and leaving the United States, it is hard to pinpoint the virus to one incident.
According to the CDC, “There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies of mothers who had Zika virus while pregnant.”
Therefore, scientists are warning pregnant women to avoid traveling, because the virus can lead to birth defects. The CDC also states that about 80% of the people who have the virus do not get any symptoms. However, the people who do experience the symptoms get fever, rashes, and conjunctivitis.
While, the Zika virus is not new but it is new to the Americas, so it is important to be aware and take precautions.
“Until a vaccine is available, mosquito control and education of at-risk populations to reduce contact with the vector are the only short-term approaches available. These methods have had limited success for dengue and chikungunya viruses,”Dr. Albert Ko of Yale University and the colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.