What is going on with the Zika Virus?


Contributed by Alli Weis

Firstly, what is the Zika virus and how is it spread? This is part 1 of a 3 part series…

The Virus:

Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus. The virus was first isolated in 1947 from the Zika Forest in Uganda. It’s an enveloped single-stranded RNA virus with a positive sense genome that can be directly translated into viral proteins: three structural and seven non-structural.

The Spread:

The Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopctus mosquito. These are the same mosquitos that spread the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) and the same ones that spread dengue and West Nile viruses. When the mosquitos bite into a person, the virus migrates from the mosquitos’s salivary gland into the blood stream of the person. The other route of transmission is through sexual context from a man into his partners.

The Symptoms:

About 1 in 5 people that are exposed to the Zika virus become ill. Common symptoms are fever, rash, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and joint pain (CDC). These symptoms are usually mild and last from a few days to a week. In severe cases, hospitalization is required; however, this is generally rare (CDC). The devastating impact of Zika virus is when a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus. Zika virus is linked to a serious brain birth defect called microcephaly, meaning small brain. Babies associated with viral infection during pregnancy have displayed a range of phenotypes, mostly related to brain development, many of which are still being investigated as an effect of infection. Zika virus has been recovered from the brain of babies born with microcephaly; however, it has not yet been proven that the virus caused this phenotype.

Danger for the United States:

While most of the impact on humans so far has been contained to Brazil, at this time the CDC reports that 30 states have been infected with the Zika Virus. That is, there have been evidence that mosquitos have been carrying and humans have been infected by the virus in over half of the nation states. This poses significant threat to the public health of the country.

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,”

The map linked below shows the US States currently affected by the Zika Virus.


Source of information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The US Action:

Recently the Obama Administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion for Zika virus aid. This funding would include science research grants, health work funds, and others. While Congress is discussing the plan, the Obama Administration is considering appropriating left over Ebola funds into aiding with the Zika virus.

Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of the Zika Virus Blog series…

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