For quite some time now, the Zika virus is considered an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization. The Organization declared the virus as an emergency stating that four million people worldwide might be infected by the end of 2016. The numbers might go higher, as recent studies by universities in the United States found that if more than one species of mosquitoes transmit the disease, the numbers could eclipse. At the moment, the World Health Organization urges pregnant woman to avoid traveling to more than 30 countries, with more probably to follow. The outbreak is growing in Latin America and in the Caribbean. Brazil, one of the affected countries has urged to increase the level of protection to maximum levels for the Summer Olympics in Rio.
At the moment, the numbers in the United States show 258 virus cases reported due to traveling to Zika affected countries. No case has been local. Out of those cases, 6 were sexually transmitted, and 18 were detected in pregnant women where the virus can do some serious damage to the brain of the newborn. At the moment, only Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito transmits Zika. But scientists in the United States fear that Aedes albopictus, another mosquito species, might end up being capable of transmitting the virus. In that case, the outbreak will be widespread. The second mosquito species pose a risk for countries in Europe and Asia, previously thought as low risk, to be affected. That being said, here are some questions and answers to common Zika virus matters.
At the moment, there is no vaccine that can prevent Zika virus. The best way to prevent from Zika is by avoiding mosquito bites, which is easier said than done. However, you need to know that mosquitos that transmit Zika virus bite during daytime. Prevent transmitting or getting affected by the virus by using condoms for sexual intercourse.
The following recommendations are by the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention in the United States. Here are they:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
- Stay in air conditioning places. Make sure to use door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
- Sleep under a bed net designed to keep mosquitoes away
- Use insect repellents that are EPA-registered. Do not use them if you have babies younger than two months
- Treat your clothing with permethrin, but don’t use permethrin products directly on the skin.
If you notice Zika symptoms, or you are diagnosed with Zika virus, the friendly and humanitarian thing to do is to protect others. There is no reason for others to suffer. Therefore, follow these instructions:
- Avoid mosquito bites during the first week of infection, because at this point, every mosquito can get your infested blood and transmit to others
- Use condoms and preservatives for sex. At the moment, there is no timetable for how long the Zika virus stays in the semen of men, but it is better to be safe than sorry
- Not having sex is the best way to protect others from getting Zika from sexual transmission.
Let’s take a look at the areas with active mosquito-borne transmission of the virus. At the moment, those areas include: Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Brazil, certain parts of Africa, Puerto Rico, America Samoa, and US Virgin Islands.
The Zika virus is a tropical infection that a year ago was unknown to the Western Hemisphere. The infection is comes from mosquito transmission, and it was first discovered in 1947 in a forest in Uganda. The virus is common in Africa, but until May, 2015, the virus didn’t spread to the Western Hemisphere. It was in May when the virus was detected in Brazil. The infection causes almost no symptoms, and there is no lasting harm.
To understand how the virus is transmitted, we must understand how mosquitos transmit every disease. What is important to know is that only female mosquitos bite people as they need people’s blood to lay eggs. Mosquitoes pick up the virus in blood, and then it travels from their gut to their salivary glands. Let’s go step by step:
1. Mosquito feeds on the virus-infected blood
2. The blood travels to the gut of the mosquito
3. The virus enters the circulatory system of the mosquito
4. From there, the virus enters the salivary glands of the mosquito
5. Mosquito bites again, and this time, the insect injects the virus-infected saliva into his victim. The mosquito then feeds on the blood of his next victim.
One of the reasons why experts and scientists worldwide recommend using condoms for sexual intercourse is because the virus can be sexually transmitted. The Zika virus doesn’t fall into STD category, but since March this year, there have been more than a dozen infections that occurred through sexual intercourse. The virus infection occurred when a man that had traveled to a country with the infection had sex with a female partner.
At the moment, there is no test for Zika virus. The virus is closely related to other viruses such as yellow fever and dengue. Therefore, the virus might cross-react with tests for those viruses. To detect Zika, one must take a blood test in the first week of infection. It is important to know that only one of five infested people develop symptoms. The symptoms for Zika include rash, joint pain, fever and red eyes. Infected people do not need to be hospitalized
For women, it is important to know that if you were not pregnant when you visited an affected country, the risk for brain damage at your infant is very low, almost non-existent. The risk increases if you become pregnant while in an infected area. The virus does not linger in women.
However, there is no difference when during pregnancy a woman was infected with the virus. The risk is high and the dangers are persistent no matter if the infection came in the first, or in the 30th week of pregnancy. However, doctors in Brazil believe that the first trimester presents the highest risk.
At the moment, there is no treatment for Zika virus. The Center for disease and control prevention does not recommend antiviral medication. The symptoms are mild if they appear at all, and all you need is rest, nourishment with healthy diet and supportive care.
Experts are still divided on the how babies suffer from Zika, but the virus has been linked with some cases of microcephaly. The condition happens in infants, causing brain damage and resulting with small heads. According to some studies, the Zika virus has the ability to cross the placenta and attack the fetal nerve cells.
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