Zika Virus Could Become Pandemic

Aedes Mosquito

This past week, panic embraced scientists across the world as they realized that the Zika virus has the potential to become a global pandemic, with four million cases predicted for this year alone. Meanwhile, US scientists warned that it could take a decade before a vaccine could be made publicly available. The World Health Organization’s director general Dr. Margaret Chan said Zika had gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.”

The WHO has warned that the Zika virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas. The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis, and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America.

Zeka, similar to E.Bola, has been known to scientists for quite some time. It was first discovered in Ugandan monkeys in 1947, but has never caused an outbreak on this scale. As a result, there has not been a significant need for a vaccine until now.

The virus is spread through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is found in all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile. The only way to fight Zika is to clear stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed, and protect against mosquito bites. The virus has also been detected in semen and there was one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission, but further evidence is still needed.

Around 80% of infections do not result in symptoms. But the biggest concern is the potential impact on babies developing in the womb. There have been around 3,500 reported cases of microcephaly – babies born with tiny brains – in Brazil alone since October. Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica last week recommended women delay pregnancies until more was known about the virus.

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