There is concern that the Zika virus is spreading around the globe at an alarming rate. Mothers in Brazil are especially concerned, according to an NPR.org article. There have been four deaths from the Zika virus, and 46 more deaths are being investigated in South America’s largest country. Even though the Zika virus was discovered in Africa in 1947, the first outbreak of the virus didn’t happen until 2007. That outbreak was from the Asian strain of the virus, and it was reported in Micronesia.
In 2013, there was another outbreak of the same strain of the virus in French Polynesia. Then the virus spread through the Pacific Islands and Brazil, according to Sergio Cortes, the Brazilian head medical advisor from the Ministry of Health. The first case of the virus was reported in Northern Brazil in May 2015. From May to October, there were 150 babies born with microcephaly.
Microcephaly is the disease that the fetus contracts when the mother is bitten by a mosquito that is carrying the virus. Babies with microcephaly are born with much smaller heads and have brain development issues. Dr. Cortes told an R7.com interviewer that the number of cases of microcephaly sky-rocketed to more than 3,500 between October 2015 and January 2016.
Brazilian medical researchers on NPR.org are working on a vaccine for the Zika virus, but they haven’t been successful. Dr. Cortes said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to U.S. citizens to stay away from Brazil. There have been 12 cases of the virus reported in the United States. One infant in Hawaii has been diagnosed with microcephaly. Three UK travelers were recently diagnosed with the virus, and one Israeli girl returning from Colombia has the virus, so it appears the virus could spread through North America and Europe in 2016.
Dr. Cortes told R7.com that The Zika virus usually causes a two to 10-day illness. Infected people suffer from joint pain, rashes, fever and conjunctivitis. Pregnant women, however, could pass the virus on to their unborn baby, and that is Brazil’s main concern. Babies born with the virus related microcephaly don’t live longer than 10 to 15 years.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out a Zika virus related warning in the following countries: Colombia, El Salvador, Brazil, Guatemala, Haiti, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Martinique, Panama, Suriname, Venezuela, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Bolivia, Saint Martin, Cape Verde, Samoa and Guyana. Public Health England has put out a warning, and that agency expects to see more cases of the Zika virus the over the next six months.
But Dr. Cortes said that the virus is not spread through human contact. Zika is only transmitted to humans by a mosquito bite. But Cortes also said that researchers did a study in 2013, and they concluded that the virus might spread through sexual intercourse, but that has not been confirmed. Even though researchers believe that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, it has not been proven scientifically. But there is enough human evidence to link the two, according to Dr. Cortes.