This new epidemic has hit the press due to its rate of spread and its striking images of new born babies with birth defects who have been affected by the virus. Women are being advised in affected areas (Central and South America) to delay pregnancy. People are infected by a mosquito but recent reports of transmission by sexual activity (the virus is carried in semen), urine, blood and saliva although these are yet to be confirmed by scientists. What is not as widely reported is that there are high numbers of people contracting the virus but they are surviving. It is not known however, how much those with the virus are contagious and as yet there are no cures only prevention strategies.
The Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes which also transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The virus can spread to the foetus and cause microcephaly – a condition involving brain shrinkage which severely limits a child’s intellectual and physical development – or even death.
Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda (in the Zika forest) in 1947 in rhesus monkeys. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
On the 1st February, 2016 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’, raised to the level of the Ebola virus and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emergency Operation Centre set up in January moved to the next alert level.
WHO recommendations for prevention and support for countries to control the virus:
The CDC is working internationally and with local health departments:
Latest updates from WHO
Latest updates from CDC
Zika Virus StoryMap
‘Zika Virus: What you need to know’ from the BBC News
‘Zika virus: What to know’ from CNN&
Information on Zika from Al Jazeera