It has been all over the national and international news. The mosquito-borne disease, known as Zika has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization. This announcement, made on February 1, 2016, is due to the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities that may be caused by Zika virus. This determination is intended to mobilize an international response to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has spread throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean and is suspected to be the cause of a sharp rise in birth defects in Brazil. The last time the World Health Organization used this designation of PHEIC was during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This announcement has many people, most especially pregnant women fearing dire consequences. Let’s look at what the experts know about this virus and what you need to know to protect yourself.
What is Zika?
The Zika virus is a disease, spread through mosquitoes that can produce mild symptoms such as fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain. The disease is so mild, in fact, that researchers estimate about four-out-of-five people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have it — and those who do feel symptoms will only experience them for two to seven days. The virus was first isolated in 1947 the Zika forest in Uganda. It was considered a rare virus until 2013 when only a few people had the disease in Africa and Asia. In that year it became widespread in French Polynesia. By 2015, the disease began to spread rapidly throughout Brazil, where it’s estimated that more than one million people may have contracted the virus.
How is Zika contracted?
In short, a mosquito who has bitten a person infected with the Zika virus and then bites a second person could in fact that person with the disease.
Why is Zika so feared?
Zika is commanding worldwide attention because of an alarming connection between the virus and microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. This causes severe developmental issues and sometimes death. While there is not definitive proof yet the WHO strongly suspects that this condition is caused by the Zika virus. To make matters even more dire, there is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
Could Zika reach the United States?Currently this virus has been reported in the following Central and South American countries:
- Cape Verde
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Martin
There are already cases among travelers returning to mainland U.S. from these areas but there have not been any cases originating in the United States yet. The CDC has warned that imported cases could cause the virus to spread in some areas of the country. The World Health Organization warned in February that the outbreak would likely reach all countries and territories in the Americas that have Aedes mosquitoes.
What can we do to prevent Zika?
If you are visiting a country with Aedes mosquitoes you are advised to use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved, light-colored clothes and use insect screens or mosquito nets while inside.To help control the mosquito population, people should cover domestic water tanks, unblock drains, avoid accumulating garbage and avoid allowing water to stagnate in outdoor containers such as flower pots.
Some affected countries have called on women to delay pregnancy because of the possible link to microcephaly
The Latest News
As of Feb 3, 2016 there are 40 known cases of people infected with zika in the United States who traveled to the countries listed above. One case has been proven to be transmitted sexually instead of through the actual mosquito bite.
Pro-Tech will keep you updated on the latest new on this frightening virus. Knowledge is our best defense until a vaccine is developed.