Now that the hysteria regarding the deadly Ebola virus has largely dissipated, another viral threat is bringing new cause for concern. In a CNN report today it was revealed that a disturbing spike in the outbreak of the so called Zika Virus is taking place– which experts advise is expected to adversely affect the majority of the entire American continent.
During the past several months there has been a rage of Zika epidemics breaking out in many of the countries on the south American continent– with 21 countries and territories being affected. This includes Brazil which was the first country to report an outbreak back in May 2015. Over the past weekend there have been reports of three British travelers that have been affected by the virus– as a result of trips to to Columbia, Suriname and Guyana, all of which have been troubled by the disease.
The Zika virus which takes its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first identified in monkeys in 1947– is a member of the Flaviviridae family of viruses. The first evidence of human contamination by the Zika virus however, was not discovered until 1954, in Nigeria.
The disease which is spread mainly through mosquitoes, ticks and other Vector Arthropods, causes a mild fever in humans similar to other viral diseases of the the flaviviridae family– such as Denuge Fever, Yellow Fever, and West Nile disease.
Although on the surface this disease may seem mild in comparison to the devastating effects of the Ebola virus, it has also been linked to Microcephaly– a condition in newborns which causes an abnormal reduction in head size, due to under development of the brain.
According to a report published today by James Gallagher, (chief Health Editor for the BBC website)– doctors have described it as a “pandemic in progress“, with some of the affected countries advising women to postpone getting pregnant.
The main source of infection is the Aedes mosquito; a species which inhabits the majority of the Americas– except for Canada and Chile, where the climate is too cold for it to survive.
No vaccine or preventive medication.
At the time of writing there is no known preventative treatment for people infected by the Zika virus, and until more is learned about the virus– the Center For Disease Control (CDC), is advising what they describe as “an abundance of caution“. This especially applies to pregnant women who are strongly advised to postpone any travel plans they may have made to any of the affected countries,
In addition, the upcoming 2016 Olympic games have become a major source for concern, regarding those who will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro this summer. The local Rio organizing committee however have said that since the games will be held during their dry season, there will be far fewer mosquitoes around. The committee also emphasizes, they will be in close liaison with the Brazilian Health Ministry, and will adhere to their strict virus preventative guidelines.
Since mosquito bites are the prime source of infection, it is advisable for everyone to take extra precautions in order to reduce the risk of being bitten– by avoiding humid places wherever possible, and through the liberal use of insect repellents.