Zika: A Closer Look

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Top Stories

A few years ago, after the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, btw brought you a story that gave you the basics of the virus news. With more news reports of the Zika virus in Miami, Florida and a number of cases in Puerto Rico, we offer you information that will help you better understand what is happening.

From Epidemic to Pandemic

Discovered in Uganda in 1947, Zika, a virus contracted through the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito, affected mostly monkeys in regions along the Equator throughout Asia and Africa. It was discovered in humans in 1952, but the occurrence was rare. In 2007, there was an outbreak among humans (around 50 cases) in Yap, one of the cluster of islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. The symptoms were relatively mild—fever, muscle pain, vomiting and sometimes rash—and there were no hospitalizations or deaths.

Eight years later, healthcare authorities in Brazil reported around 500 cases of a “previously unknown disease.” Its symptoms were similar to that of the flu, plus a rash. In the summer of 2015, medical experts linked the neurological disorder microcephaly (abnormally small heads) in babies born to mothers infected with the virus. The link was not immediately obvious and took a surge of infants born with the disorder to confirm the association. Outbreaks spread across South and Central America, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a public health emergency. It estimated up to a 4 million cases of Zika throughout the Americans over the next year. It did not issue any travel restrictions, but cautioned pregnant women to postpone visits to any region experiencing outbreaks.

Virus on the Move

Zika virus: AuntSpray/Shutterstock

Zika virus: AuntSpray/Shutterstock

Zika spreads from person to mosquito to other people. An infected person is bitten by a mosquito; the insect becomes infected and carries the disease to another human. It can also be sexually transmitted. In January, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that the disease would eventually spread to all of the countries in the Americas. One month later, it made its way to the United States, by way of travelers to and from countries where the virus is widespread. The earliest cases (10) were confirmed in Texas. As of August 1, there have been 14 reported cases of Zika in Miami, Florida—two women and 12 men. All of them are located in an urban neighborhood called Wynwood.

On August 8, Florida governor, Rick Scott confirmed the first case of outbreak from domestic mosquitos. One advantage is that the Aedes aegypti mosquito does not travel more than 200 feet from where they hatch, making it easier to either contain or avoid the area of infestation once identified. Former GOP candidate, Miami governor Marco Rubio recently made headlines when he said, in an interview, that pregnant women infected with the ZIka virus should not be allowed to terminate their pregnancies. His comments have sparked strong comments from both sides of the argument.

Dig Deeper Shortly after cases of Zika were reported in Brazil, travelers to the 2014 World Cup were blamed for the outbreak. That theory has now been debunked. Do some research and create a timeline that reflects events and discoveries related to this proposed phenomenon. In addition, find out what precaution organizers of the Olympics are taking to manage concerns.