Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Zika Virus Facts You Need To Know

WHO says Zika virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus.
Symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
Just one in five people infected becomes ill. Hospitalisation is uncommon and deaths are rare.

How does it spread? 

Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected  Aedes  species of mosquito.
Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, but how and when this happens is unclear.

Those infected can pass the virus on through a mosquito bite for about seven days after infection.
There are no reports of transmission through breastfeeding, but in a few cases the virus has been reported to have been passed on through blood transfusion.

Can it be caught through sexual contact?

Sexual transmission of Zika is considered rare although health officials in the US state of Texas have reported a case in which they say Zika is likely to have been contracted through sex.

The individual infected had not been in Zika-affected areas, but a sexual partner had and suffered Zika-like symptoms.

Health officials are now urging men to use condoms after travelling to areas which have the Zika virus and to avoid having unprotected sex for six months if they have had symptoms.
They say pregnant women should avoid contact with semen from men exposed to the virus.

Where is Zika?

The latest outbreak is in 25 countries   in the Carribean, Central America and South America.
Past outbreaks have been in Gabon, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Cambodia, Micronesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia.

How is Zika diagnosed?

A blood or tissue sample from the first week of the infection must be sent to an advanced laboratory.

The virus can be detected through sophisticated molecular testing that seeks out the active virus, which lasts in the body for about a week.

Research is being done to develop a rapid test which could look for antibodies after a patient has recovered from the virus, making it possible to test for immunity.

How is Zika treated?

There is no vaccine or specific medicine currently available and treatment is normally focused on relieving the symptoms.

Can GM mosquitos stop the virus?

British biotech company Oxitec has produced genetically modified  Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by introduing two genes into its DNA.

One of them makes its eggs glow under UV light, helping with identification.
The other causes the mosquito's offspring to die.

Oxitec says that by releasing the GM mosquitos into infected areas, populations of  Aedes aegypti  can be reduced by more than 80 percent, thereby reducing transmission of Zika.

Oxitec says there is no way the mosquitos' modified DNA can transfer into humans or other mammals and insects, but public fears over genetic modification mean the technique is controversial.

Can a vaccine be developed?

A vaccine is possible but development, testing and trials for human vaccines normally take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

A number of companies, including Inovio, Hawaii Biotech, GSK and Sanofi are developing or considering working on a vaccine.
Source: Al Jazeera

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