History of the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in Rhesus monkeys in 1947 in Uganda’s Zika forest. The mosquito-transmitted infection, first detected in humans in 1952 in Uganda and The United Republic of Tanzania, is common in Africa. However, Zika was almost unknown in the Western Hemisphere until an outbreak was reported in Brazil in May, 2015. Zika is spreading quickly throughout the Americas in countries such as Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti, to name just a few.
No Zika Vaccine
The Aedes mosquito, which most commonly bites during morning, late afternoon and evening hours, carries and transmits Zika. The exact incubation period is not known, although it is presumed to be just a few days. Laboratory testing of blood, saliva, urine or other bodily fluids is necessary to confirm the presence of the Zika virus. There is no vaccine or treatment as of now for the Zika virus. The only certain way to prevent Zika is to avoid getting bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito.
Zika Virus Symptoms
Symptoms of the Zika virus are generally mild and include headache, conjunctivitis (red eye), tiredness, joint and muscle pain, skin rash and fever. Symptoms last for about two to seven days. Zika symptoms are often identical to those of other mosquito-borne diseases. For this reason, large numbers of cases have avoided detection. It is believed that once a person has been infected by a Zika-carrying mosquito, future infections will not occur.
Number of Reported Cases in the U.S.
As of Feb. 24, 2016, 107 travel-related cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. There have been zero locally acquired cases reported in the continental United States. However, Puerto Rico has 34 locally acquired cases. The following states have the highest number of travel-related Zika cases:
- 28 - Florida
- 17 - New York
- 13 - Texas
- 06 - California
Microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome Associated with the Zika Virus
In Brazil, a spike in the number of microcephaly cases is suspected to be related to the Zika virus. Microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with a significantly underdeveloped head, may occur as a result of the mother getting infected during her pregnancy.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a condition in which nerve cells are harmed by the immune system, resulting in temporary paralysis. A recent study has established that the Zika virus can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome.
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