CDC chart describing the major symptoms of Zika Virus in adults. (CDC.gov)
It has been a while since I have posted about Zika Virus. As the US mosquito season is peaking currently, I felt it would be appropriate to do so. Here are some important updates, based on some news articles I noticed in the past week:
- Currently in the USA, the overall Zika Virus incidence rate is much lower than it was last year. In New York for example, the current infection level is approximately 55% lower than last year at this time.
- In Central and South America, many countries are seeing a decline in Zika infections, however there are no countries where Zika Virus is disappearing. Interestingly, Argentina and Peru are seeing Zika levels increasing lately.
- It is likely that the broad declines in Zika infections within the Americas are due to an increase in the natural immunity to the virus throughout the population. Once someone has been infected with Zika once, they cannot be infected again and cannot pass the virus onto other mosquitos. These mechanisms help decrease the spread and infectivity of Zika Virus.
- Due to the sexual transmission of Zika Virus, the US government has amended their guidelines to inform Americans who have been exposed to Zika. Currently, women who have Zika symptoms should wait approximately 8 weeks before attempting to get pregnant. Men, however, should wait approximately 6 months before engaging in sex. The differences in time are due to Zika surviving longer in the testes than initially expected. (For a review of the symptoms of Zika Virus in adults, please see the graphic at the top of this post!)
- On the research front, scientists have created a mouse model to study Zika virus’ life cycle and transmission characteristics. Creating this research model is a great advancement as it will allow scientists to gain more knowledge on the virus and allow us to make advancements in the prevention of its spread and treatment.
While Zika is currently less talked about than it was last year, it is still prevalent and should not be forgotten. I’ll post more updates as the news behind Zika Virus develops.
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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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