When thinking about what to write this week, I was torn with what to write about. One of my classmates suggested that I write about Chikungunya, as she knows it affects many Caribbean countries. Looking into Chikungunya, I also see that this disease ties in nicely with the diseases I have already blogged about because, similar to Zika, it is transmissible via mosquitos. Below, I will talk about some of the major facts about Chikungunya, and describe how it is affecting the world today…
- Chikungunya is a viral disease that was first noticed in Tanzania in 1952. When the first cases came in, this disease got its name based on one of the major symptoms that it causes. In the Kimakonde language, Chikungunya is derived from a word that means “to become distorted,” referring to the appearance of many patients.
- Chikungunya is transmitted by mosquitos, primarily the Aedes aeqypti and Aedes albopictus Interestingly, these two species are also famous for transmitting other mosquito-based diseases, such as Dengue and Zika. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, Chikungunya symptoms can set in within 4-8 days.
- The major symptoms of Chikungunya include a sudden fever with severe joint pain. In most cases, the joint pain disappears after a few days to a week, but sometimes this pain can last several months or years. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches.
- Chikungunya is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone, but simple blood tests can quickly and easily confirm the diagnosis.
- Unfortunately, there are currently no antiviral drugs to fight Chikungunya. When patients are identified, treatment is usually targeted at relieving symptoms. Fever and joint pain are commonly treated using standard treatments. The virus is usually cleared by the body within a week or two, but sometimes it can remain for longer.
- The best way to prevent yourself from contracting Chikungunya if you are traveling to a region with high Chikungunya levels is to take efforts to prevent mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeve shirts, pants, and mosquito repellents are internationally accepted standards to prevent mosquito bites. In addition, using mosquito nets, or ensuring that mosquito screens are installed in any room you stay in are also effective ways to minimize your contact with mosquitos.
- Currently, Chikungunya is afflicting over 60 countries worldwide.
Where Chikungunya transmission is present, as of October 2015 (CDC.gov)
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This week, I am going to talk about what is arguably the most pressing virus that humans are facing today, not entirely because of its lethality, but because of its widespread effects and absence of a cure. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has currently infected 37 million individuals worldwide. Shockingly, it is estimated that only 54% of those who are infected with HIV are aware of their infection, meaning that roughly 46% of those infected are unaware that their bodies are fighting a potentially life-threatening diseases. Below, I want to present some facts about HIV:
- It is estimated that there will be roughly 2 million new HIV infections every year
- HIV is a virus that infects a person’s immune system, particularly their CD4 T cells
- While the immune system is able to fight off most pathogens without a problem, HIV mutates so quickly in the body that the immune system is unable to effectively combat it
- 2-4 weeks after being infected with HIV, a person may experience any of the following symptoms: fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers. Not all people will show these symptoms, and some people may not show symptoms at all for over 10 years.
- After a certain amount of time, these symptoms will subside. When the symptoms subside, the virus is lying dormant in the body. During this time, the virus is being suppressed by the body’s immune system, but it is constantly evolving and mutating to find ways to break free.
- Eventually, due to the chronic infection, the body’s immune system begins to lose its ability to hold back the virus and the CD4 T cells begin to die off. At this time, the virus rises in its numbers and the patient will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). When a patient has AIDS, they experience many negative symptoms, and eventually succumb to an opportunistic infection because the body’s immune system has been severely degraded.
- There is no cure for HIV, and no vaccine to prevent people from contracting it. Fortunately, we have Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ART’s) which can greatly prolong an infected individual’s life by helping the immune system suppress the virus. These treatments, while effective, are also extremely expensive, adding a financial burden to those who are infected.
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So, it’s been a while since I first wrote about Zika Virus… Today, almost every major news outlet carried the story that the Deputy Director of the CDC publicly stated that “Zika is scarier than we initially thought.” Today alone, I noticed this quote on the front pages of many news apps and papers. Given the fear that this headline easily instills in others, I figured this would be the perfect time to break down the facts of Zika, as it is currently understood.
- Since my last Zika post, it has been shown that Zika Virus can be transmitted sexually, with 7 confirmed cases in the US mainland resulting from this.
- Zika Virus is actively spreading throughout most of South America, all of Central America, and is beginning to spread through North America, including 30 states in the US.
- Caribbean islands, especially Puerto Rico, are predicted to have a large increase in their number of Zika cases in the near future as we head into the summer months and there is increased interactions between mosquitos and humans
- The CDC is warning women who are pregnant, or who are considering becoming pregnant in the near future, to avoid traveling to regions of the world where Zika Virus is actively transmitting.
- Zika virus has been linked to an increase in the rates of microcephaly, particularly in Brazil, however not all pregnant women who contract Zika Virus will give birth to babies with deformities
- It is possible that Zika Virus is associated with an increase rate of other birth defects, including vision problems, auditory deficits, and abnormal growth
- As with many diseases, if you are infected with Zika Virus and the body fights off the infection, there is little to no risk that you will contract the virus again given your body’s immune response and memory
- The White House, as recommended by the CDC, is diverting $589 million dollars in funding that was earmarked for Ebola prevention to promote research into the Zika Virus
Map showing the countries where Zika is actively transmitting, as of April 12, 2016 (CDC.gov)
There is still much to learn about Zika Virus and the research community is examining new ways to study, diagnose, and treat Zika Virus. As more developments arise, I will definitely post more updates to keep you informed! Thanks for reading my blog, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments about any of the diseases I have talked about so far. If you have suggestions for other diseases for me to talk about, please comment them below!
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, commonly referred to as MERS has been circulating the world lately. Before the Zika Virus outbreak in Brazil and the Ebola crisis in Africa, MERS received a lot of attention from the media because it is a relatively new disease in humans. The first human cases of MERS were seen in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Since that time, MERS has been seen in many countries around the world. MERS is currently circulating in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Republic of Korea. Since 2012, there have only been 2 cases confirmed in the US, both of which originated in travelers who had traveled to a region which had a MERS outbreak.
MERS is caused by the MERS Coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV. It is believed that MERS-CoV originated in bats, but it is commonly found in camels. MERS transmits from animals to humans easily, but human to human transmission is not easily seen. MERS is fatal in many cases, especially in countries where the healthcare system is not very adequate. There is currently no vaccine to protect humans from contracting MERS, and there are no definitive treatments. To add to the difficulty in combating MERS, there are no clear diagnostic tests to allow doctors to accurately diagnose the disease in its early stages.
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