Everything there is to know about the Zika Virus a deeper look at one of the most trending and intriguing topics at the moment.

What is, the Zika virus?

Zika according to the World Health Organization website is a disease caused by the Zika virus which is mostly spread by Aedes mosquitoes. A really dangerous and fast spreading disease, Zika is approaching pandemic status. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the virus "has sickened 1.5 million so far in Brazil, followed by 25,000 suspected cases in Colombia," since the current outbreak started back in early 2015. The most dangerous and large scale outbreak so far has been the one is South America but the virus itself is native to Africa in a place in the opposite side of the planet.

Where is the Zika virus native to?

The virus is native to Africa and Asia. According to the World Health Organization website, it was first discovered in the Zika Forest, Uganda, in 1947 the virus sample was collected from a rhesus monkey and year later it was also found living in Aedes Africanus mosquitoes from the same forest. The continental spreading of this virus was facilitated by the frequent international traveling between Western and Eastern countries so the virus traveled and multiplied itself creating different strains that are now native to some pacific islands. “One could speculate that numerous introductions of either infected mosquitoes or infected travelers are necessary before a foreign arbovirus can become established in a new area, because the virus needs to be introduced into a capable vector population as well as host population”, says the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. So while international traveling did act as a mediator for the disease to spread, it is not clear whether a mosquito or a human first introduced the virus to the Americas. It is really important to know how to spot the symptoms of this virus in order to keep oneself protected and to stop further spreading.

What are the symptoms and how can they be spotted?

Symptoms of the Zika virus may consist of a very mild fever that most arthropod-borne diseases are well known for and for this particular virus is called the "Zika Fever". The virus might take a few days to activate, approximately 3 to 12 days, and the infected person might continue to feel sick from 4 to 7 days after the symptoms start taking effect. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention inform that “Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defects," though this might depend on how late or early in the pregnancy women were infected. The virus might be transmitted by mosquitoes or one can get infected by practicing unprotected sex, it is important to get tested because as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), points out “only 1 in 4 people infected with Zika virus develop symptoms.” While spotting and being alert might be of a lot of help to travelers and vacationists it is not enough for people who live in Countries with entire areas flooded with this malicious virus. That is why researchers are working non-stop to find a cure or treatment.

How close are pharmaceutical companies to finding a cure to Zika?

Scientists keep taking steps to develop a cure for Zika. As Chromatography Today reports, three vaccines for the virus have been discovered, and were tested in monkeys to whom these vaccines gave full protection.Some people don't look at this as an accomplishment because it was tested in monkeys and not humans, so it’s efficiency is in question but as Dan H. Barouch Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School States “The consistent and robust protection against Zika virus in both rodents and primates fuels our optimism about the development of a safe and effective Zika vaccine for humans.” The vaccine protected monkeys from 2 strains of the virus, a Brazil strain and a Puerto Rico strain. The United States government and U.S Pharmaceutical firm Inovio have already started human trials.if it the vaccine proves to have the expected results it would provide help to people in countries who have been struck the hardest by this malicious virus. With all the evidence that shows how devastating Zika is or can be if gone undetected a question that some might ask is, How could it? how could a virus as dangerous as this, could have snuck up on us like that.

Could this outbreak have been prevented?

There is no way to accurately answer this question, because multiple factors intervened to make the spreading of the virus a lot easier and some of these were just plain impossible to stop. First and foremost, the virus was discovered in Uganda, in the 1940’s. Some outbreaks did occur, but most of these outbreaks were a lot less severe than the current outbreak down in South America. In some places, the amount of people who actually contracted the virus were just a little over a dozen so it wasn't really considered a threat by Health Organizations. Also, in the article “A Brief History Of Zika Virus, From Its Discovery In The Zika Forest To The Global Outbreak Today” by Elicia Bushak, she also mentions that in the timeframe from 1947 (the year the virus was discovered) to 1964 only 14 cases were officially confirmed. So the virus and its consequences went pretty much under the radar, attacking from within the shadows of other viruses like dengue and chikungunya for over a decade because of their (super?) similar symptoms.There is the slight possibility that all of the damage Zika has caused in Brazil and other countries would have been prevented if more testing have been done, on time, but unfortunately the virus was too sneaky and hid from the sight of scientists for a long time making it impossible for the corresponding authorities to take action on time.

Glossary

Sickened

To become ill. Either to feel disgust or to get physically sick.

Mediator

Something or Someone that helps to resolve a problem or facilitates an exchange of some kind.

Arthropod-borne

This is the term used when referring to a disease, virus or illness spread by a member of the Arthropod family.

Arbovirus

RNA viruses that are discovered in arthropods, bats, and rodents.

Strain

Different varieties of certain things that fall under the same category.

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