Update on the Zika Virus

Do we know something new?

Every day we learn more about the Zika virus. Unfortunately, it is expanding to other countries and we have learned that it could have other forms of transmission. In Life and Health we keep you informed.

Since we published our first column on the Zika virus column of January 27 , research has allowed us to learn more about this microorganism and, unfortunately, the epidemic has spread. On January 29, 2016 the World Health Organization due to the increase in the number of cases of children with congenital malformations (specifically microcephaly, which means “small brain”), declared an international public health emergency. In that press conference he mentioned that while one and a half million cases had been reported in Brazil, he estimated that it was possible that four million people could become infected by the end of 2016. It was believed that the increase would be by people traveling to the countries in where the virus is more common.

For their part, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (CDC) had recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to several countries (mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean). where the Aedes aegypti mosquito lives and the largest number of Zika cases have been reported. This list will probably continue to change. PAHO, The Pan American Health Organization, thinks that eventually the virus will spread throughout the Americas (except in Canada and Chile). The most recent CDC list recommends avoiding travel to the following countries:

  • In Central America : Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.
  • Mexico
  • In the Pacific Islands : American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga
  • In South America : Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paragua, Surinam, Venezuela.
  • In Africa: the  archipelago of  Cape Verde
  • In the Caribbean : Barbados, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, US Virgin Islands.
Health officials in many countries affected by the Zika virus have given an unprecedented suggestion to women “Do not get pregnant.” Although it would work, this suggestion has been received mixed: some have made fun of saying that officials do not realize the reality, since many women have no way of getting contraception because of their socio-economic status and that abortion is often It is illegal.

¿ What happens if you travel to a country where they have Zika virus ?

There are two ways that experts think you can get the Zika virus. Through a bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito or perhaps through sexual contact by a person who is infected by the virus (this is being investigated). Most people who become infected manifest symptoms between 2 and 12 days after the bite (less is known of contagion through sexual contact and research continues). Most people have mild symptoms and recover within a week of symptoms.

At the moment it is thought that if symptoms have not developed 20 days after leaving the country where they have the Zika virus, it is likely that the person has not been infected.

However, as there are many uncertainties about sexual transmission, the CDC recommends that the couple of a pregnant woman who has traveled to one of these countries with the Zika virus, refrain from having sex or using condoms until the woman gives to light (that is, while pregnant) to prevent any risk in the future baby. Health authorities in England recommend that couples use condoms for 28 days after returning from infected areas. As we have more information, this will surely change.

Experts think that most cases are transmitted by mosquito bites and not by sexual transmission. From what we know to date, there have only been three cases suggesting that the Zika virus was transmitted by sexual contact. Hence the precautions until we have more information.

Is there any test to know if you have the Zika virus ?

This is part of the problem. There is no diagnostic test that is readily available. In addition, in order to be more accurate, a sample of blood or tissue must be collected in the first week of infection, when the symptoms just appear. It is then when it should be sent to specialized laboratories for the detection of the virus that are made with sophisticated molecular tests. Because when you check the antibodies, you can have a false positive reaction when you react to the dengue virus or the yellow fever virus (or even the yellow fever vaccine) because all these viruses are related and therefore, the latter Not that very good

Also, frequently, Zika is not diagnosed during the first week because the symptoms are very mild (fever, rash, joint pains and redness in the eyes) and only one in five infected people develop symptoms. Hospitalization is rarely required.

Should a test be done on newborns to rule out Zika virus ? Is it important at what time of pregnancy is the pregnant mother ?

It is only recommended to do a Zika virus test if the mother lives or has visited a country where there is a virus outbreak or if the mother has had positive tests. This is because, sometimes, a newborn may not have microcephaly, but if the mother became infected during pregnancy, the child may have problems with vision or hearing later.

It is thought that the Zika virus is especially dangerous during the first trimester of pregnancy , which is when the organs are being formed, including the brain.

By the way, an ultrasound during pregnancy can not detect microcephaly until the end of the second trimester. If the suspicion of Zika virus is high, an amniocentesis can be performed (to check for the presence of the virus in the fluid surrounding the baby). This test is not recommended before 15 weeks of gestation.

At the moment we do not have treatment for the Zika virus.

Experts are trying to find a rapid test to establish the diagnosis of Zika virus and a vaccine to prevent it.

What can we do?

Meanwhile, the most important thing is the prevention of insect bites and trying to control the reproduction of mosquitoes. As historians say, the Aedes aegypti mosquito , which also transmits yellow fever, killed more soldiers during the Spanish-American war than the weapons, and now they are causing quite serious problems by passing the viruses that cause dengue , yellow fever , chikungunya and more recently the Zika virus.

We are contributing to the rise of mosquitoes. If you wonder how, not only by water deposits that we leave in the yards, around the house, etc. that favor their growth, but also what we do with our planet that favors the patterns of change in the climate as “El Niño” that brings a warmer and wetter climate during the winter and causes the insects to be born before and reproduce by more time. So, in addition to preventing the bites, let’s try to keep informed about how to take care of our planet.

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