What do we know about the Zika virus?
Mar. 3, 2016
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting and declared the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Suddenly, a virus most of us had never heard about three months ago is constantly in the news. You might have scrolled past a news headline or two, but as a future health care professional, especially a medical lab technician, itâs important to keep up on the happenings in the community.
How do people contract the Zika Virus?According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. When a mosquito carrying the virus bites a person, his/her blood is infected. In the process of biting another person, the mosquito then lets out some of that infected blood into the new person's bloodstream, and now, a second person is infected. Recently, U.S. researchers have concluded that an individual can get the Zika virus via sexual transmission with an infected person, who might not know they are infected.
What is the Zika Virus?According to information collected by WHO, Zika is a disease which doesn't cause symptoms in four out of five people. Many are unaware that they are carriers of the virus. When someone does display symptoms, they are usually mild and include:
- joint pain or muscle pain
- Conjunctivitis (pinkeye)
Why is the Zika Virus a concern?Zika was discovered in Uganda in the 1950s, but because the symptoms were so mild, doctors treated it on a case-by-case basis. However, when Zika started spreading in South America recently, the infections seemed to cause a rise in two serious conditions:
- Microcephaly: pregnant women who contract the Zika virus seem to have a much higher chance of giving birth to a child with microcephaly, a condition that causes a newborn to have abnormal skull size, which can be linked to an underdeveloped brain and developmental delays.
- Guillain-Barre: People who have had Zika seem to have an increased risk for Guillain-Barre, a rare autoimmune disease which results in muscle weakness, trouble breathing, and paralysis. One out of 20 sufferers does not fully recover.