The latest health epidemic in the news is a virus carried by the Aedes mosquito called the Zika virus. Understanding what the virus is, where it came from, and the effects it can have may be a little confusing, so our Columbia pest control company is here to break it down:
The Zika virus originated in Uganda’s Zika Forest, an enclosed tropical forest used to study mosquito-borne viruses. While the outbreak is recent, the virus was discovered back in 1947 by Alexander Haddow and George Dick, when a monkey exposed to the forest developed a fever. The virus was thought to only affect monkeys, but in the following decades, it was discovered in a handful of isolated human cases. The virus’s symptoms were mild and weren’t viewed as a threat to Uganda, so no further research was done to create a prevention or a treatment.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the first large outbreak of the Zika virus occurred in Micronesia and many scientists believe the new virus to be a mutation of the original. The mutated virus spread throughout the Pacific islands and landed in Brazil in 2015, where it continued to spread. Today, it’s prominent in the Pacific islands, much of South America, Mexico, and a nation in Africa.
Symptoms of those infected with the Zika virus are generally mild, and around 1 in 5 infected people will become ill. The most common symptoms include rash, fever, joint pain, muscle pain, and/or headaches. These symptoms can last anywhere from several days to a week, and are very rarely fatal.
How It Can Be Transmitted
As the virus becomes more prominent, scientists are discovering more ways that it can be transmitted. So far, these scenarios include:
- From mosquito to human via a bite
- From human to mosquito via a bite
- From human to human via sexual contact (though rare)
- From human to human via blood transfusion
- From mother to child at time of birth (though rare)
Microcephaly in Infants
Microcephaly is a condition that affects infants. Many suffer from unusually small heads (though in about 15% of these cases, there is no effect on the infant); others suffer from stunted brain development, either during pregnancy or in the first few years of life. This can cause problems such as hearing loss, intellectual deficits, or developmental delays.
While many people are associating the Zika virus with microcephaly, the correlation hasn’t been 100% proven. Doctors only noticed an increase in the condition back in October, but because the increase correlates with the increase in the number of Zika virus cases, the virus may be to blame. For this reason, pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant are being urged to avoid travel to virus-affected countries.
How Long Is the Virus Present in the Blood?
So far, the Zika virus doesn’t seem to pose a long-term threat to those who contract it. The virus only stays in the blood for about a week and because symptoms are mild, relief can be found through rest, fluids, and common medication like acetaminophen.
*Photo courtesy of cdc.gov