In 2016, Rio Janeiro, Brazil hosted the most renowned sporting event known across the globe, the Olympics.Concurrent to its kick-off is the Zika, a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the type of mosquito responsible for dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus.
Though the virus was first identified in monkeys in Zika Forest, Uganda in 1947, it was the first time to be seen in Brazil in 2015 and peaked just as they were preparing for the 2016 Olympics.Brazil had declared a national emergency in November 2015, where hundreds of thousand of cases have been reported.
After a sharp decrease in cases this year, where it dropped 95 percent between January and April, Brazil has declared an end to the national emergency over the Zika virus.
The virus has been linked to the birth of babies with microcephaly or abnormally small heads, as the Zika virus brings birth defects to women if infected during prenatal. Many infected people won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms because the symptoms of the Zika virus are difficult to determine.Some signs can even last for a week.
The most common symptoms of Zika are:
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain
- Pain behind the eyes
Avoiding mosquito bites is vital in preventing transmission of Zika virus.The use of insect or mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, and IR335 will be the number one vanguard against mosquitoes. EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Another way is wearing of long-sleeved garments and long pants.Placing mosquito nets over beds and using window and door screens will help.It is also recommended that people empty any areas with collected stagnant water, as this is a common environment in which mosquitoes can lay their eggs.
Zika could also be transmitted through sex, from a person who is infected with the Zika virus to a person who is unharmed.It can also be passed from a person before their symptoms start, while they have symptoms, and after their symptoms end.Use of condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex, either male or female condoms.
There is also a potential risk that the Zika virus could spread through infected blood.As a result, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised people who have traveled to a region with active Zika virus transmission to defer from donating blood.
There are several rapid detection tests available for qualified laboratories, distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The CDC recommends resting, increasing fluid intake to prevent dehydration for people with the virus, and the intake of acetaminophen for relieving pain and fever.
In the preceding years, there is no known treatment or vaccination available for Zika, until a favorable news about two possible vaccines for Zika.Published in the journal, “Cell”, a study finds that vaccinating pregnant mice against the Zika virus protected their fetuses from infection and defects.Although the research is still in its early testing stages, this is the first vaccine to show promising progress and results in finding a cure.
In the study, researchers tested two different Zika vaccines under development in female mice.They were vaccinated before they got pregnant and exposed to the Zika virus while pregnant.Surprisingly after the experiment, there was minute evidence of the virus in the female mice, their placenta, and their fetuses.Once the female mice gave birth, more than 90 percent of those who were given the vaccine, was born without the disease.
“In the study, we were the first to show that two different potential vaccines given to the mother prevent the Zika virus from infecting the fetus during pregnancy in a mouse model,” said Pei-Yong Shi, senior author and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “Based on these data, we believe that evaluating the vaccines’ ability to prevent birth defects in humans is warranted.”, Shi added.
Shi also stated that: “Having a Zika vaccine that can protect pregnant women and their unborn babies would improve public health efforts to avoid birth defects and other effects of the disease in regions where Zika is circulating,”
It's still too early to say whether similar results might be seen among humans.But having a vaccine that could protect both mother and baby would be ideal to guard against the Zika virus.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advances Research Projects Agency, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the March of Dimes, Moderna, UTMB, The University of Texas System, the Pan American Health Organization, the Ministry of Health of Brazil, the Brazilian Agency for Scientific and Technological Development and the Coordination of Professionals of High Level Degree of Ministry of Education of Brazil.