Another deadly virus raises its ugly head, this time in South America!
Just after Africa was declared Ebola-free, we are now told of another deadly virus, this time affecting unborn babies. And this time, it’s not Africa that is largely affected, but rather the South American countries along with Mexico and the Caribbean islands.
This virus is named ZIKA. It is a mosquito-borne flavivirus transmitted by one family of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, which is not common in North America. The Zika virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites someone else. It is not transmitted from person to person. About one persons in five who are infected with this virus will become symptomatic. Characteristic clinical findings include acute onset of fever, maculopapular rash, arthralgia (joint pain) or conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes). Clinical illness usually is mild and symptoms last for several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and fatalities are rare. However, if a pregnant woman becomes infected with this virus, her fetus is highly likely to be miscarried or be born with microencephaly.
Microencephaly is a disorder which causes the child to be born with a small head and underdeveloped brain. The country of Brazil has reported a marked increase in the numbers of babies born with microencephaly in the past few months as well as an increase in spontaneously aborted fetuses, which have been linked to the Zika virus. Officials at the CDC say that it is hard to predict at birth how the condition will affect a child, but in severe cases, babies with microencephaly will likely have seizures, vision problems and developmental disabilities.
Recently a baby born in Hawaii was diagnosed with microencephaly. The baby’s mother was residing in Brazil last year although did not have the virus when she arrived in Hawaii and the baby no longer had it at the time of birth. This supports the theory that the virus does its’ damage very early in the development of the embryo.
There is no commercially available test for the Zika virus and there is no treatment. Zika testing is being done at the CDC Diagnostic Laboratory and a few state health departments. CDC is working hard to expand laboratory diagnostic testing in states, using existing RT-PCR protocols.
Until more is known and just to be cautious, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Geographic areas of concern are Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Pregnant women who do travel to these areas should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. This would include women who are trying to become pregnant.
Karla Kulpas, RN
Public Health NursePosted: by OverlieP