The first case of Zika virus in America has been discovered in Puerto Rico in December 2015. The virus is spreading on the American continent through mosquitos, sex and travel.
Zika is a flavivirus from the same family with the yellow fever, West Nile and dengue. It can cause microcephaly, a birth condition which causes babies to be born with smaller-than-normal skulls and brains and usually have developmental disorders.
The virus has been found for the first time in Uganda in Zika forest, from which it got its name. In 1968 it has been isolated in people in Nigeria but serologic evidence also showed its presence in many countries from Africa and also India and Malaysia.
In 2007 the virus has been found for the first time outside these areas, on Yap Island in South pacific. This was the first evidence that the Zika virus was spreading.
Columbia saw its first cases of Zika in 2015 and it has now reached to over a thousand cases every week. In May 2015 the virus got to brazil and since then it has infected between 440,000 to 1.3 million people of which about 1000 women who were pregnant when they contacted the virus gave birth to children with microcephaly.
A species of mosquitos is responsible for transmitting the Zika virus – the same one which also transmitted Chikungunya and dengue. Since these mosquitoes love wet hot areas it is expected to see the Zika spreading to the U.S. during next summer in southern states from the Gulf Coast, Florida, Texas and perhaps California.
Besides mosquitoes, Zika is also transmitted through blood transfusions – a case has been reported last week in Brazil – and there have also been cases of possible sexual transmission.
The majority of Zika infections are asymptomatic. The illness installs from 3 to 12 days after the mosquito bite and it lasts for 4 to 7 days. Its symptoms can be confused with those of Chikungunya and dengue, as they include headache, rash, fever and joint pain. Sometimes it can also give conjunctivitis.
The most serious effects are for pregnant women who might give birth to disabled children. A recent case comes from Brazil when the Zika virus has been found in a newborn with microcephaly. The baby died right after birth.
As prevention measures doctors advice preventing mosquito bites by using nets and other repellents but also by avoiding humid areas such as rainforests, especially at dawn when the mosquitoes are the most active.
The CDC has already issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens who travel in Latin America encouraging them to avoid mosquito bites and also unprotected sexual intercourse.
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