The Zika Virus: A Health Threat

Anisa Pezeshki

The Zika Virus was first discovered in a monkey in 1947; the monkey was found to have a fever, and scientists performed a few tests and found a transmissible, viral agent on the monkey. Five years later, in 1952, the first human case was spotted in Africa. There were no Zika cases found outside of Asia and Africa until the disease was discovered on the island of Yap, in 2007. Before 2007, there were only 14 cases of the Zika Virus documented- this list does not include people who had the virus and did not report it. The mosquito that transmits the Zika Virus also carries yellow fever, dengue fever, and the chikungunya virus.

 

The term “Zika” originated in Uganda, receiving its name from the Zika forests. The actual virus spreads to people who have been bitten by the Aedes species mosquito, classifying Zika as “mosquito-borne”. Though, in some cases, the disease can spread to other people either through animal bites, having unprotected sex, or even blood transfusions, The Zika Virus classifies as a rare disease since less than 1000 cases occur each year. The CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued a public health alert for people who want to travel to areas with the Zika Virus. MD Amesh Adalja states that “Only about 1 in 5 people with the virus will exhibit symptoms, and the vast majority have no symptoms at all.” Signs and symptoms of the Zika Virus occur two to seven days after being bitten by the infected mosquito. Warning indicators include mild fever, rash, muscle pain, joint pain and conjunctivitis (inflammation or infection of the outer membrane of the eyeball and inner eyelid). No treatment for the Zika Virus has been found, though Adalja states some over-the-counter medications work well for aches and pains.

The Zika Virus is especially harmful for pregnant women. The Zika Virus has a history of causing microcephaly to those infants whose mother contracted the disease. Microcephaly poses a great threat to newborn infants, since this condition causes a baby’s head to be disproportionate compared to the rest of the body; a baby’s head grows during pregnancy because the brain grows, though when a baby has microcephaly, their brain has not been fully developed or damaged throughout the pregnancy. Babies who have microcephaly are more prone to other medical issues including seizures, vision problems, hearing loss, problems with movement and balance, and developmental delay (speaking, walking, and even sitting/standing). No one has developed a cure or treatment for this condition, to the dismay of mothers with children possessing microcephaly.

The Zika Virus has a history of associating with the Guillain-Barre Syndrome: a rare disorder in a person’s immune system that attacks their nerves. In the United States, one case of the Guillain-Barre Syndrome was associated with the Zika Virus, according to the CDC. This condition requires immediate hospitalization, and should be taken very seriously. The cause of the Guillain-Barre Syndrome is currently unknown. The first symptoms include both weakness and tingling, which start at one point, then continue to spread throughout the entire body. Ten percent of the people who have this disorder state the tingling and numbing feeling begins in their face. Symptoms of the Guillain-Barre Syndrome include: prickling (in toes, ankles, fingers or wrists), weakness in legs, unsteady walk, difficulty breathing, high or low blood pressure and difficulty with bladder control or improper bowel function. A few of the most common types of this syndrome include acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP) –the most common type in the United States, Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS), acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN), and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN).

The Zika Virus was found in Brazil in 2015, causing much panic due to the Rio 2016 Olympics held in Brazil this upcoming summer; more than 4000 babies were reportedly born with microcephaly, sending a warning to women to try and postpone their pregnancy. Another doctor states “that the link between the two [Zika Virus and microcephaly] appears to be getting stronger the more that researchers learn.

In addition, research has suggested that infection during the earliest stages of pregnancy, when a baby’s organs are still forming, seems to be linked to the worst outcomes.” As of February 26th, nine cases of the Zika Virus infected pregnant women, who were on vacation and brought their disease back to the U.S. Two of the nine were born with healthy births, two resulted in miscarriages, two terminated their pregnancies, two preceded without known complications, and one resulted in microcephaly. In January, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared an international public health emergency to those people with birth defects related to the Zika Virus. Over 30 countries were named a travel warning to pregnant women; a few of the countries include: Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

There are two current methods used to test patients for the Zika Virus. The first technique searches for remnants of the virus’ genetic coding-which was initially tested on people with the active infection. The second method searches for antibodies, which help make up the immune system. Surprisingly, the antibodies can last in the blood up to three minutes in which a person gets infected form the virus. The Zika Virus poses a major threat to pregnant women all over the world causing fear to women who want to travel.

 

Works Cited

“About Zika Virus Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/index.html>.

“Conjunctivitis.” Web MD. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-health-conjunctivitis>.

“Facts about Microcephaly.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html>.

“Guillain-Barre Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/guillain-barre-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20025832>.

“History of Zika Virus.” Zika Virus Net. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.zikavirusnet.com/history-of-zika.html>.

“What Is the Zika Virus, and Should I Be Worried?” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/zika-virus/expert-answers/faq-20178199>.

“Zika Virus: What You Should Know.” Web MD. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/zika-virus-symptoms-prevention?page=4>.

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