Zika Virus Update
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has now confirmed new cases of Zika virus in several states across the U.S. and has expanded its travel alert to include the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. The previous travel alert for pregnant women or women considering getting pregnant included the following destination: in Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. In the Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin and Puerto Rico. Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa; and Samoa in the South Pacific are also destinations to which the CDC warns travel should be postponed.
January 26, 2016, the Arkansas Health Department confirmed one recent case of Zika virus but their spokesperson, Meg Miravel, said there is no cause for alarm since the person had contracted the virus while traveling. The sex and age of the patient was not released but Miravel stated it was a mild case of Zika.
There have now been U.S. cases of the virus in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Virginia, New York, Nineteen cases have been reported in Puerto Rico with one case in a patient who had not traveled to any of the countries on the travel advisory list.
The mosquito born virus is linked to a birth defect called microcephaly. Babies born with the defect have smaller heads than normal, sometimes sloping foreheads, and if they survive, usually require lifelong care. A sharp increase in cases of microcephaly in Brazil in 2015 alerted doctors to the problem and the Zika virus was suspected to be the causative factor. In addition, the virus has been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes paralysis and requires intensive care. According the infections disease experts, most cases of Zika have very mild symptoms such as rash, low grade fever, and aches and pains and the CDC does not expect widespread incidence in the U.S.
The concern is that with thousands of cases of Zika virus in Brazil and a large influx of tourists expected in the summer of 2016, there will be active cases spread worldwide. The peak transmission time for Zika is expected to be in April in Brazil. The CDC, World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) are working to study the virus and its vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito in order to develop a vaccine to prevent the disease.