What to Watch Out For in Healthcare: Zika Virus Disease
The Zika virus have been up on the headlines these past few days, and is even “spreading explosively” in the Americas according to the World Health Organization with and estimate of 3 million to 4 million infections in the region over a 12-month period.
Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general adds, “The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty,” and urges the organization’s executive board members to get some answers quickly.
An overview of the Zika Virus Disease
Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
With the virus being transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, people with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis all of which are usually mild and may last from 2-7 days. However, there are major worries about the dangers pregnant women and their babies face.
Zika virus disease is typically fairly mild and requires no specific treatment. However, those people sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.
Updates about the virus
According to Chan, where the virus has arrived, there’s been a corresponding “steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.” Having small heads can cause severe developmental issues and sometimes death. Guillain-Barre is a rare autoimmune disorder that can lead to life-threatening paralysis.
In Brazil, for example, there has been more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly, in which a neurological disorder resulting in the births of babies with small heads reported in infants born to women infected with Zika while pregnant.
There are currently 36 people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, including four pregnant women — two in Illinois and one each in Washington DC and New York and those infected are spread across 11 states and Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of those infected contracted the virus outside of the U.S. before returning, according to health officials.
In a research paper, scientists said the outbreak might have been linked to major sporting events that brought together thousands of people across the globe to Brazil. According to Dr. Peter Armbruster, professor of biology at Georgetown University, who was not involved in that study, “It is very likely an infected traveler from French Polynesia that traveled to Brazil was likely the source of the Brazilian invasion. Whether it is someone associated with the [World Cup], we do not know for sure.”