A Scary New Virus
Move over chikungunya, malaria, dengue fever and all other mosquito borne illnesses, there is a new kid in town. A new and much more fearsome member to the family, the Zika virus.
This virus carried by mosquitos is possibly the scariest of them all, not because of the illness, that in itself is usually not that bad. The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes and these could last for up to a week. Hospitalization for the virus is uncommon and it is estimated that 80 percent of people bitten by an infected mosquito feel nothing at all.
Serious After Effects
No, the Zika virus is scary for the after effects, mainly what it can do to pregnant women. In Brazil they have discovered that the Zika virus is responsible for birth defects, specifically microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller than usual brains, a result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the cases of microcephaly in Brazil in the year 2015 rose to over 30 times more than those of any year since 2010. Very scary.
It has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare and potentially life-threatening nerve condition that can leave victims paralyzed and on life-support. Brazil does not track these cases, but doctors reported a six-fold increase in the number of cases during last year’s rainy season.
The Zika virus is not new. It has occurred in parts of Africa and Asia, and also the Pacific islands, but it was a mild illness and caused no lasting after effects. No one knows why it is causing microcephaly in Brazil, but the studies are on-going.
Anyone traveling to places where there is a possibility of encountering Zika carrying mosquitos should wear mosquito repellant and minimize skin exposure as much as possible. It should also be known that these mosquitos bite all day, so travelers should keep reapplying repellant as often as needed.
There have been travel alerts for anyone heading to Brazil or other places where mosquitos carrying the Zika virus might be found. There have even been calls for women who live in South America to delay pregnancy for a few years until this virus might be contained.
Olympic Size Problem
There is a major concern also because Brazil is set to host the Olympics in August of 2016. Although it will be the dry season and the least favorable to mosquitos, the danger will still be there.
Prevention and Protection
The most effective way to prevent the Zika virus is a vaccine, but researchers say that developing a vaccine will take at least 3 years. Until then its up to each individual to protect themselves from disease by wearing plenty of insect repellant and minimizing exposed skin, to date the most effective prevention available. Or start living inside a plastic bubble, that would work too.