Why is Zika virus such a big deal?

In the last few months nearly 4,000 Brazilian babies have been born with a condition known as Microcephaly, which results in small heads and incomplete brain development.

All signs point to one common cause, the Zika virus.

Zika is a virus spread through mosquito bites that in adults causes a relatively mild reaction that can include of fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis over a period of 2 to 7 days. . Sometimes there are no symptoms. Unlike another deadly mosquito by-product, Malaria, the Zika virus is not thought to be transmitted human to human (although there are rumblings that it can be sexually transmitted).

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Brazilian researchers are also studying a link between Zika virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes the immune system to attack the nervous system, leaving some people paralyzed by their own body.

The governments of Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica have all advised that pregnancies should be delayed and avoided until Zika Virus is subdued.

The fear of Zika has led to a number of governments issuing travel warnings to women either pregnant or hoping to get pregnant. This is Australia’s list of countries of concern:

Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadelope, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico. Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname & Venezuela.

The Zika virus was first discovered on Rhesus monkeys in the Zika Forest of Uganda. In 1952 the first human cases were then identified in Uganda and Tanzania

Since then it has had a very minor presence on the global disease radar, with outbreaks in the tropics of Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific yet nothing like the current South American scale.

There is no treatment for Zika and US scientists say it’ll be 10 years before there’s a vaccine.

After being caught off guard with the explosion of Zika Virus cases, Brazil is struggling to contain Zika.

Brazil’s tropical temperatures coupled with poorly sanitised and dense cities have proved to be perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

 

With the disease tipped to spread north to the US and the world poised to descend on Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games in August, let’s just hope that there is a viable solution in the very near future.

 

Photo Credit – John Tann/Flickr

 

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