Zika Virus Outbreak

Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. Zika Virus poses significant danger to pregnant women and their unborn child, putting the child at risk for microcephaly, smaller than average head size with abnormal brain growth, and other serious birth defects.

The Zika virus, first identified in Uganda in 1947, is transmitted by the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. A mosquito bites an infected person and then passes those viruses to other people it bites. Although it was discovered in Uganda in 1947, Zika only caused sporadic infections in humans until 2007, when it caused a large outbreak in the Federated States of Micronesia. The virus later spread across Oceania, was first reported in Brazil in 2015 and has since rapidly spread across Latin America. According to the CNN, a Zika-related death was reported in Puerto Rico on April 29; the cause was complications from Zika infection, including internal bleeding.

Rio’s climate and population density make it an optimal environment for mosquitoes, which transmit the virus. The virus has caused panic in Brazil since it first appeared there in early 2015. More than 1,700 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly or other birth defects linked to Zika. Brazil and several other nations have advised women to postpone pregnancy. The Zika virus has arrived in the United States, with mosquitoes spreading the virus in two Miami-area neighborhoods and the CDC advising pregnant women to avoid those areas. In May, the agency set up registries in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to track pregnant women infected with Zika. Experts had predicted Zika’s arrival in the U.S., as it can be carried by travelers from the Caribbean or Latin America.

An elderly resident of Utah who died at the end of June is the first fatality in the continental United States linked to infection with the Zika virus, local health officials said Friday. The resident, whose name and age were not revealed, had traveled to an undisclosed destination where Zika is circulating, CNN reported. As of August 4th, there are more than 1,800 cases of Zika Virus in the U.S., according to the CDC. Eighty percent of people who become infected never have symptoms. In those who do, the most common Zika virus symptoms are fever and rash; it can also cause muscle and joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes, and conjunctivitis (itchy, red eyes), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Symptoms usually arise within 10 days of a bite from an infected mosquito and recovery usually takes a week.

There is currently no vaccine or medications to cure Zika. Treatment generally involves rest, hydration and taking Tylenol (Acetaminophen) to reduce fever and pain. While there is no FDA-cleared or approved tests that exist to conclusively diagnose Zika Virus, the FDA has issued Zika Virus Emergency Use Authorization for several diagnostic tools for Zika Virus, including the Trioplex Real-Time RT-PCR (rRT-PCR) assay and the Zika Virus MAC-ELISA, which are blood and urine tests that can be performed by the CDC and several state and local health departments.

Zika Virus

According to a study by University of Oxford, globally, it’s predicted that over 2.17 billion people live in areas that are environmentally suitable for Zika Virus transmission. The number of births occurring in the Americas only, as it is the region for which the most accurate high-resolution population data on births exists and because it is the focus of an ongoing outbreak, which is the largest recorded thus far. In the Americas alone, an estimated 5.42 million births occurred in 2015 within areas and at times that are suitable for Zika Virus transmission.

From a macro perspective, the Zika outbreak could potentially have long term repercussions. The government in Brazil and countries in the region are already advising women of reproductive age to postpone pregnancies anywhere from six months to two years. If millions of Latin Americans observe these warnings for a significant period of time, there will be potential for serious strain and major issues in the various education and health care systems across the region. This could negatively impact the continued productivity associated with the sizable workforce in Brazil and the region as a whole.

With the Zika virus reaching across the globe, there are more than just health concerns. Global trade and travel has contributed to the explosive spread of the Aedes species of mosquito, such that it is now present in every continent, including North America. As a result of climate change the world is getting warmer and wetter – the perfect breeding ground for all types of mosquitoes. Countries presently not affected by the Zika virus have become increasingly concerned about its potential impact. Some countries are implementing their own strict entry requirements for merchant vessels that have previously called at a Zika affected country.

To prevent the spread of the Zika virus, the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has announced a new mandate for cargo originating in the United States. On August 5th, the U.S. was added to the Chinese government’s list of Zika infected countries as a result of the localized outbreak in South Florida. As a result of being included on this report, Mosquito Eradication Certificate will be required for all ocean containers destined for China, regardless of where in the U.S. the cargo originates from, USA Today reports.

The most up-to-date Zika Virus health information, available at fda.gov, cdc.gov, who.int and Zika Virus Resource Center.