Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Zika Virus Update

Countries with Zika virus transmission (CDC)
Zika virus is the latest mosquito-borne viral infection to emerge in the America, close on the heels of chikungunya which was first introduced in late 2013. 

Zika virus is a flavivirus that was only recently introduced into South America and that is spreading rapidly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Aedes mosquitoes (especially Aedes aegypti) are day biting mosquitoes and transmit Zika virus (as well as dengue and chikungunya, among other viruses). It is believed that the incubation period for developing disease is a few days following a bite. People who develop symptoms may have mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headache, malaise and arthralgia. Of high concern is a significant uptick in the number of cases of microcephaly that have been detected in Brazil during the current outbreak; these appear to be related to Zika infection although a definitive causal link has not been established. Also, Zika infection has been linked to the rare, serious neurologic condition Guillain-Barre Syndrome. 

Global population growth and urbanization may have contributed to the Zika virus's emergence in the Americas. Like chikungunya just a few years before it, the virus appears to be spreading rapidly, especially in tropical and sub-tropical countries where Aedes mosquitoes exist in abundance. 

Unfortunately treatment of Zika is symptom based; no specific antiviral therapies or vaccines exist at this point. Mosquito control and bite avoidance strategies will be critical in dealing with Zika virus. Looking to the future, other viruses that are transmitted by the same mosquitos could emerge; global public health planning should anticipate these events and invest in strategies to reduce such emergence. 

Some excellent resources can be found online at the WHO site as well at CDC's site

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