The Obama administration is requesting $1.8 billion in emergency funding from Congress to fight the Zika virus in the United States and abroad .
1. What is Zika virus [3-6]?
· The Zika virus is an enveloped virus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue.
· Zika virus was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947.
· The first human case was detected in Nigeria in 1954 and there have been further outbreaks in Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.
2. How is it transmitted [3-6]?
· It is a mosquito-borne virus. The virus is transmitted via direct route (direct blood-to-blood). It is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
· As of today, there have only been three reports suggesting sexual transmission.
· Brazilian researchers recently said live Zika virus were found in saliva and urine samples, raising the possibility that the infection could be spread involving bodily fluids .
· Please note environmental surfaces are not believed to play a role in the Zika virus transmission.
3. Symptoms [3-7]
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. In fact, 80% of those infected never know they have the disease and usually do not have to be hospitalized.
4. Pregnant women at special risk [3-7]
It is especially concerning for pregnant women as Zika virus is possibly linked with microcephaly at birth (an infant's head is significantly smaller than normal). The link with Zika has not been confirmed, but the WHO says it is "strongly suspected". Since November, Brazil has seen 4,180 cases of microcephaly in babies born to women who were infected with Zika during their pregnancies. To put that in perspective, there were only 146 cases in 2014. So far, 51 babies have died.
5. Prevention [3-9]
· No specific antiviral treatment is available for Zika virus infections and no vaccine against Zika virus is available currently.
· Avoid travel to areas with an active infestation.
· Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites.
· With rare exceptions, the virus does not appear to linger in the body, and people who recover from the infection may develop lifelong immunity.