Zika Virus
The Zika virus has become one of the most discussed global health issue since outbreaks resurfaced on the island of Yap in 2007.

The virus has caused many health problems and prenatal risks. It’s important to be educated on its transmission and origin in order to reduce the probability of outbreaks within households and communities. Here are the 10 most interesting facts about the virus.

  1. In Uganda 1947, scientists were testing animals and insects for evidence of yellow fever. They accidentally came across a virus being transmitted from mosquitoes to monkeys and named it Zika, after the forest it was discovered in.
  2. Zika virus is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. These mosquitoes are notorious for being daytime biters, however, they also bite during the night. These mosquitos are primarily found in tropical regions and are the same mosquito responsible for yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya transmission.
  3. The Zika virus can also be spread by sexual intercourse (anal oral or vaginal). Pregnant women and individuals infected with the virus are advised to practice safe sex or abstinence to prevent the spread of the virus to their partners or possible contraction.
  4. The incubation period for the virus is three to 12 days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache. These symptoms last for three to seven days. The Zika virus symptoms are usually mild and require no specific treatment.
  5. Protection against mosquito bites is essential for prevention of the Zika virus infection. One preventative measure is to wear lightly coloured clothes that cover the body and reduces attraction.
  6. The Zika virus could cause birth defects such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Several case reports and studies based on laboratory confirmation have linked infants and fetuses with congenital brain abnormality to their mothers who have been infected with the virus during her first or second trimester of pregnancy. Zika virus infections that occur during the third trimester are affiliated with poor intrauterine growth and fetal death.
  7. A diagnosis of the Zika virus infection can only be confirmed through laboratory tests on blood and other body fluids, such as semen, urine and saliva.
  8. There is no vaccine for the virus, however, data reveals that protection against Zika virus challenge can be achieved by single shot plasmid DNA vaccines with a full-length Zika virus pre-membrane and antibody neutralizing property or inactivated virus vaccines in susceptible mouse models.
  9. Researchers backed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases developed three vaccine approaches to protect monkeys from the Zika virus. The first experiment involved a comparison between an inactivated Zika virus vaccine and a placebo injection. After a boosted dose of both vaccines, the monkeys that received the inactivated Zika vaccine showed an increase in antibodies while those who received the placebo had high levels of virus replication. Another trial using experimental DNA vaccine shots, the monkeys were exposed to the Virus.
  10. The World Health Organization and partners have made efforts to manage and prevent medical complications caused by the Zika virus infection. The organization plans to implement the Zika Strategic Response Plan between July 2016 to December 2017.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr