In The World of Diseases, You Could Do Worse Than Zika
The World Health Organization estimates 3 to 4 Million people will be infected with the Zika virus. WHO Director General Margaret Chan said Zika has gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.” Marcos Espinal, a WHO infectious disease expert, made the estimate, giving no time frame.
From The New York Times:
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Although it was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and is common in Africa and Asia, it did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil.
Until now, almost no one on this side of the world had been infected. Few of us have immune defenses against the virus, so it is spreading rapidly. Millions of people in tropical regions of the Americas may now have been infected.
Yet for most, the infection causes no symptoms and leads to no lasting harm. Scientific concern is focused on women who become infected while pregnant and those who develop a temporary form of paralysis after exposure to the Zika virus.
Although the virus is normally spread by mosquitoes, there has been one report of possible spread through blood transfusion and one of possible spread through sex. The virus was found on one occasion in semen.
The possibility that the Zika virus causes microcephaly – unusually small heads and damaged brains – emerged only in October, when doctors in northern Brazil noticed a surge in babies with the condition. These children may experience a range of problems, like developmental delays, intellectual deficits or hearing loss.
The Pan American Health Organization believes that the virus will spread locally in every country in the Americas except Canada and Chile. Only one of five people infected with the virus develop symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Those infected usually do not have to be hospitalized.
In general, they (the cdc) say that pregnant women who have visited any area with Zika transmission should consult a doctor. The C.D.C. does not recommend a particular antiviral medication for people infected with the Zika virus. The symptoms are mild – when they appear at all – and usually require only rest, nourishment and other supportive care.