Inside Scope on Medical Truths: Zika Virus


Donya Forst

Donya Forst, Print Editor

Over the last couple of years, foreign diseases have become a prominent talking point in the U.S. However, the topic is no longer only about fundraising or how donations can be made to support impacted countries.

Now these diseases are hitting too close to home, and talks have quickly changed from “what can we do to help?” to “what can we learn, how do we inform the public, keep everyone safe and make it go away?”

Last year, everyone was concerned about Ebola. While Ebola still exists, and cases are still present in the US, contagion was largely resolved and talk of it has finally faded.

Now the Zika Virus has stolen the stage.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika Virus has been present in foreign countries such as Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, for a long time. In May 2015, the first identified case made its way to the Americas in Brazil and then in early 2016, the U.S.

Since then, the CDC has worked closely with many other organizations to gain knowledge of the Zika Virus and limit cases. “On February 8, 2016, CDC elevated its response efforts to a Level 1 activation, the highest response level at the agency,” the CDC reported.

The disease can be transmitted through mosquito bites, sexual intercourse, blood transfusions and pregnancy – from mother to child.

The main concern is not necessarily Zika, but other conditions that can result from it. Zika itself has minimal symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The disease usually lingers in the blood stream for a couple of days to a week, but in most cases those infected require no hospital care.

The main cause of concern is with pregnant patients, mostly the fetus and the development of microcephaly, a deficiency in which the baby’s head is significantly smaller due to abnormal brain development.

According to CNN, “Brazil and French Polynesia are seeing alarming spikes in babies born with microcephaly, and the World Health Organization estimates three to four million people in the Americas will contract Zika within the next 12 months.”

There is no vaccination for the virus. However, researchers are working around the clock and 15 drugs have already been approved for further research. The goal of the CDC  right now is to “protect Americans, especially pregnant women.”

According to the CDC, 346 cases have been recorded in the continental United States. Most cases involve those people traveling back from countries where the disease is more prevalent.

While the government is funding millions of dollars towards finding a cure and vaccination, money is limited, and unfortunately there’s most likely little time before the next outbreak occurs and talks shift once again.

Until then, the Zika Virus will be top priority. We can only hope that the topic fades into background noise because Zika is controlled – and there is not another deadly outbreak.