Zika Virus Explained
Zika virus is an arbovirus, meaning that it is an insect vector-borne disease, most commonly transmitted through Aedes (aegypti and albopictus) mosquitoes. Zika virus can also be transmitted through exposure to infected blood or sexual contact. Less commonly, Zika can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
Zika is endemic to parts of Africa and Asia, but over in recent months, between 400,000 and 1.3 million cases have been discovered across South, Central, and North America, where the disease was previously unknown.
The number of cases and the locations of the outbreak qualifies Zika as an international health emergency.
A Growing Epidemic Threat
A total of 416,169 cases of Zika virus have been reported in 38 countries throughout the Americas. 52,825, or roughly 12.6%, of those cases have been laboratory confirmed. 363,344 cases, or nearly 87.3% of the total are considered to be unconfirmed or “suspected”.
Significant evidence links the spread of Aedes mosquitoes during the current summer season in the southern hemisphere with a confluence of environmental factors likely attributable to climate change and the influence of the El Niño effect. This convergence manifests in the form of increased heat and precipitation particularly at lower elevations, which in turn opens up new breeding areas for Aedes mosquitos.
Relevant environmental conditions are expected to persist well into the middle of 2016, and to transition after that into an intense La Niña effect which could, in turn, alter the geographical spread of Aedes mosquitos and expand Zika virus exposure into countries which have not yet been affected by the current outbreak.
Zika in the U.S.
The CDC has confirmed more than 2,000 cases of Zika virus 46 US states and 3 US territories. Just under 50% of cases in the U.S. were acquired through travel while the rest were transmitted by mosquitos.
All locally acquired cases are in US territories, not US states, with Puerto Rico accounting for 83% of the total. 65% of these cases were acquired through travel. 695 cases, or 35%, were acquired locally through mosquito transmission.
Zika Virus Symptoms
Symptoms of Zika virus in most people are similar to other arboviruses such as Chikungunya (fever, headache, fatigue primarily). The recent epidemic in Brazil, however, has been distinctively marked by detection of the disease in fetal amniotic fluid and an elevated reporting of cases of microcephaly (small head size) in newborns.
Given the virus’ recent introduction to the Americas, some epidemiologists have expressed concern that resistance may be low, leading to increased transmission rates and severity of symptoms. In rare cases, Zika symptoms have been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes the body’s immune system to attack its neurological system and can lead to paralysis.
Direct Relief’s Response
Because no Zika vaccine exists yet, the response to the outbreak involves stepped-up public health efforts, including vector control of mosquitoes, public awareness, staff training, and development of treatment protocols.
Direct Relief is in close communication with public health officials and facilities in 14 countries throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States.
To date, Direct Relief has fulfilled requests for contraceptives, pain medication, and insect repellent in the U.S. , Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Argentina, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala and Paraguay.
Direct Relief is also partnering with Greenlid Envirosciences to equip at-risk communities in the U.S. and internationally with Biotraps — biodegradable mosquito traps designed to target and eliminate female mosquitoes and their larvae.
For every Biotrap purchased, Greenlid Envirosciences will donate one Biotrap to help stop the spread of Zika Virus and other mosquito-born illnesses. Additional information on Biotrap and this initiative is available on Greenlid’s Indiegogo campaign page.
Direct Relief’s Zika Fund
Anticipating further requests, Direct Relief has established a Zika Fund with an initial commitment of $100,000, towards which private contributions may be designated. 100% of contributions to the fund will be used to support healthcare facilities in Zika-affected areas, with particular focus on the following measures:
Zika funds will be used to boost support to partner organizations providing care in Zika-affected areas, with particular emphasis on the following measures:
- Providing and pre- and postnatal resources needed for safe deliveries and to support care for newborns.
- Distributing requested supplies such as insect repellent, IV solutions, medications for fever reduction and pain relief, and contraceptives.
- Providing general in-kind and financial support to alleviating the strain placed on local health facilities by a surge in patients.
To support Direct Relief’s efforts to stop the Zika Virus, click here.
Zika Virus News
Greenlid Biotraps Will Be Deployed at 2016 Olympics, Protecting Athletes Against The Spread of Zika Virus
July 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Greenlid Envirosciences launches its newest patented product, Biotrap, the world’s first biodegradable mosquito trap designed to target and eliminate female mosquitoes and their larvae and stop the spread of Zika Virus, Dengue, Malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
U.S. researchers are estimating a wide range of potential risk for the birth defect microcephaly following Zika infection in the mother, putting the figure at anywhere between 1 percent and 13 percent, according to newly-released findings.
A study led by Olli Vapalahti, professor of zoonotic virology at the University of Helsinki, Finland, has found that small amounts of genetic material from the Zika virus can be detected from a blood sample taken from a pregnant woman even weeks after the acute rash caused by the infection has passed, when the development of brain damage in the fetus is underway.
Brazilian scientists studying 151 patients who recently sought help at a local hospital for symptoms similar to those caused by Zika have made a worrisome discovery – that the virus may be associated with a second serious brain issue in adults.
Zika virus may be linked to acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an autoimmune disorder that attacks the brain and spinal cord, a new study found. ADEM is an autoimmune disorder similar to multiple sclerosis. Among ADEM patients, the immune system attacks the myelin, which coats the spinal cord and the brain’s nerve fibers.