Reports emerged from Brazil that pregnant women infected by Zika virus gave birth to babies with heads much smaller than expected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel alert Level 2 for people to “Practice Enhanced Precautions” when traveling to regions and countries where the virus is already rampant. Through the first week of 2016, 14 countries and territories of Americas reported cases of the virus. The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization said that on rare occasions, the Zika virus might be transmitted through sexual intercourse.
The symptoms and manifestations of the Zika virus are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya. In fact, the virus is spread by the same species of mosquito. In the case of the Zika virus however, there is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat it, according to CDC.
The most crippling fear brought by Zika virus is the possibility that pregnant women infected are giving birth to babies with Microcephaly as in the many cases reported in Brazil. It is a birth defect where babies’ brains have not developed properly during pregnancy. As a result, babies born with this condition have smaller head size.
Although studies and further tests are being conducted to confirm the link of Microcephaly and Zika virus, the CDC has already issued warning for pregnant women against traveling to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela; Samoa, Cape Verde, South America and Central America.
The CDC specifically advised women who are pregnant in any trimester and those who are trying to become pregnant to consider postponing travel to any of these areas aforementioned. If travel cannot be avoided, they should talk to their doctors and strictly follow their recommendations on how to prevent mosquito bites.
Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO/WHO’s Department of Communicable Disease, said the Zika virus is a new virus that the population of the Americas has no immunity to. “It has already spread to 17 countries in our region, and the rest should be prepared for its further spread,” he said. The virus is present in every country of the Americas except Canada and continental Chile, he added.
The New York Times meanwhile reported that experts identified one case of live Zika virus seen in a man’s semen. The case was so far considered as an isolated one. The man was Tahitian and the case was reported in 2013 during an outbreak of the virus in French Polynesia. The first hint that Zika virus could be sexually transmitted was reported in 2008. Biologist Brian Foy was bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus in Senegal. Few weeks after coming back to Colorado both of them got sick and few days later Foy’s wife showed the same symptoms.