An aedes mosquito feeding on human/James Cathany
By Mary Foran
Source: BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35427493)
Traveling has never been so full of dangers, it seems. Now, the nasty little mosquito is making it hard on everyone!
In a very well-researched and interesting article on the BBC news website, James Gallagher, Health editor, writes on May 31st, 2016 what we all need to know about the recent outbreaks of the Zika virus.
According to Gallagher, the World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus “a global public health emergency”.
“The infection is suspected of leading to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains” which is called “microcephaly”.
The Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Olympic Games have been overshadowed by this “pandemic in progress”. However, Brazilian authorities have tried to ensure that puddles of stagnant water, where the mosquitoes breed, are removed in order to minimize the risk of athletes and visitors coming into contact with these nasty little critters who suck mammals’ blood and then bite another, thus spreading the virus.
The symptoms of Zika infection are similar to other, milder, ailments: a mild fever, conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes), headache, joint pain, a rash. Currently, although they are working on it, there is no vaccine or treatment except rest and liquids. The greatest concern is that pregnant women, if they are bitten, can transmit the infection to their fetuses in the womb, resulting in microcephalic babies who may suffer death or developmental or intellectual disabilities if they survive.
Cases of microcephaly have been centered in north-east Brazil, but the outbreak has affected more than 20 countries. Some governments have issued travel warnings for pregnant women, or women wanting to get pregnant, advising the latter to delay getting pregnant until more is known about the virus. Zika, it has been found, can be spread through sexual contact, authorities at the US Centers for Disease Control warn.
The Zika virus was first detected in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. The first human case was detected in Nigeria in 1954. Outbreaks occurred in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Brazil reported Zika in May of 2015. Since then it has spread rapidly to Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela.
Just in July, Florida health officials confirmed that 14 cases of Zika near Miami were likely caused by local mosquitoes. It is thought that the Aedes mosquitoes are the main culprits of Zika infections; they are found throughout the Americas except for Canada and Chile where it is too cold for them to survive. The Southern States have also reported cases.
US experts from the National Institutes of Health say trials of a Zika vaccine will likely start in September this year (2016). Depending on the results, larger trials could begin at the start of 2017. Unfortunately, for those who have to travel to affected areas, they predict that a vaccine ready for the general public won’t be available until the beginning of 2018.
Some are questioning now the ethics of the possibility of totally eliminating the mosquito from the face of the earth. Science fiction or science fact?
> Featured image by James Cathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services, PD (Image shows an aedes aegypti moosquito, a yellow-fever mosquito. Note that the Zika virus is a flavivirus in the same family as yellow fever, dengue, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis viruses.
> Rio Olympics logo by Carl Bob, CC BY 2.0
> A healthy volunteer receives the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Zika virus investigational DNA vaccine as part of an early-stage trial to test the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity. This is the first administration of this vaccine in a human. US Department of Health and Human Resources. Photo published in “NIH Begins Testing Investigational Zika Vaccine in Humans” (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-begins-testing-investigational-zika-vaccine-humans), 3 August 2016
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