A Global Emergency: The Zika Virus
The World Health Organization (WHO), has declared the Zika virus outbreak a global emergency because there is an association between the infection and microcephaly.
While the association between microcephaly and Zika is still being researched, the numbers of cases has continued to grow since the virus was first transmitted in Brazil in 2014. Brazilian health authorities report half a million to 1.5 million Zika infections as of 2015, and have seen the number of microcephaly cases go up to 3,500, with 46 deaths in the past four months. By contrast, there were only 147 microcephaly cases reported in 2014. The Zika epidemic is unlikely to be over any time soon according to the WHO, whose scientists who predict there will be 3 to 4 million new infections in the Americas this year, including in the southern United States. According to the CDC “the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase”.
The Zika virus demonstrates vertical transmission with virus being spread by mosquitoes biting infected individuals. The virus can also be spread by blood borne and sexual transmission from infected individuals. There is a risk to pregnant women during and possibly prior to conceptions. Many of the details of Zika Virus transmission are still being investigated. Because of the known health effects, the CDC has issued a travel advisory for those visiting countries where the virus is endemic and also warns women of child bearing age to avoid travel to endemic areas and take other recommended precautions to avoid Zika virus exposure.
About the Zika Virus Rising in the U.S.
As of February 10, 2016 the CDC has the following statistics on the spread of the Zika virus in the U.S. and its territories.
• Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 52
• Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
• Travel-associated cases reported: 1
• Locally acquired cases reported: 9
On February 8th, the Obama administration indicated it plans to ask Congress for $1.8bn to respond to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The money would be used domestically and internationally to respond to outbreaks, to research vaccines and to prevent the spread of the disease, according to White House officials.
The Zika Virus: 10 Things You Need to Know
What is the Zika virus?
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
What are the symptoms of the Zika Virus?
Unlike with Ebola, which has one of the highest fatality rates of any known pathogenic virus, 80% of people infected Zika show no symptoms. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. The most common symptoms of the Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
What is the relationship between the Zika Virus and Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Scientists are also investigating a possible link between Zika and Gullian-Barre, a neurological disease. But scientists have not conclusively tied either to Zika. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder where a persons own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes, paralysis. These symptoms can last a few weeks or several months. While most people fully recover from GBS, some people have permanent damage and in rare cases, people have died. The CDC is working to determine if Zika and GBS are related.
Who is at the greatest risk from the Zika Virus?
Zika poses the greatest danger to pregnant women whose unborn babies may be at risk for a severe birth defect called microcephaly.
How is the Zika Virus transmitted?
There’s evidence that Zika can be transmitted sexually, passed on through birth and even through blood transfusions. However, the majority of infections thus far have been from being bitten by an infected mosquito carrying the virus. Notably, when a person carrying the virus is bit by another mosquito, that mosquito is then capable of spreading the virus further as it feeds on other people.
When was Zika first Identified?
The Zika virus was originally identified in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947. This area of the world is known for mosquitos that carry yellow fever, chikungunya and the dengue virus. At first, scientists only saw infections in monkeys and later when it was detected in humans, there was no urgency to develop a vaccine since infected humans only showed mild symptoms. Scientists believe the original strain of the virus has mutated and its virulence has increased.
What countries in the Americas have seen Zika infections?
Now more than 20 countries and territories in the Americas have found Zika transmissions, places where the WHO estimates there will be as many as 4m infections. However, specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. Please visit the CDC Travelers’ Health site for the most updated information.
What factors cause the Zika Virus to be Spread
Poverty, inadequate water supplies and weak public health systems are major factors in the spread of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya, which tend to cluster in low-income communities. Many other factors are involved, including climate change and increased global mobility.
What is the treatment for Zika?
Presently, there is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat Zika virus infections.
What can I do to protect myself from the Zika Virus?
The best protection from the virus is not to be bitten in the first place. Here a few simple tips that will help you reduce your risks of being bitten from Dr. Clifford Basset posted on Fox News.
• Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos’ outside
• Remove sources of standing water, which can become a breeding ground for mosquitos
• Remember that mosquitos that spread Zika virus may be more likely to bite during daytime hours
• Apply insect repellents and reapply as directed. Check with your doctor about what kinds of repellents are safe to use in pregnancy
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and tuck your pants into your socks when outdoors
• Wear light-colored clothing, since mosquitos are thought to be more attracted to darker colors
• Avoid the use of scented skin care products
• Sleep under a mosquito net
Fonemed is here to help
Does your health organization have concerns about the spread of the Zika virus and how it could potentially effect your members?
We’ve already taken a number of telephone triage and advice calls from patients displaying symptoms similar to the Zika virus. Fonemed’s utilization of the Schmitt-Thompson protocols enable us to manage general symptoms, while we use the CDC guidelines to address specifics regarding the Zika virus. Fonemed is an experienced healthcare provider that works with a wide variety of partners in the healthcare industry including federal, state and local governments, health plans, hospitals and other health agencies.
If you have questions about how you can help protect your population, get in touch today.