Prevention, it is said is better than cure. Ebola virus entered our beloved country through the Liberian-American, Mr. Patrick Sawyer, and the resultant threats and economic imbalance the virus caused is still fresh in our minds.
Foreign viruses can easily gain access into the country, as was the case of Sawyer.
Since many Nigerians travel to several countries for business, sight-seeing, school, holidays and the forthcoming Olympics Games which will soon begin in Brazil, the environmental condition and health risks associated with such travels should not be taken for granted.
Presently, it has been ascertained that a virus known as the “Zika Virus” exists in Africa, South Asia, and Polynesia and Central and South America also has the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is convening to decide if the outbreak should be declared an international health emergency even as the Mosquito-borne Zika have the tendency of affecting up to 4 million people across the infected countries and territories in the region.
First Detection of the Zika Virus
The virus was first detected in 1947 in Uganda, and for decades, caused only mild diseases across Africa and Equatorial Asia.
In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
Why Zika Virus Should Be Taken Seriously
Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family and the Flavivirus genus, transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti.
The Zika virus is part of the same family as yellow fever. Unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat the infection.
Zika is commanding worldwide attention because of an alarming connection between the virus and microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. This causes severe developmental issues and sometimes death.
How Zika is Spread
The virus is transmitted when an Aedes mosquito bites a person with an active infection and then spreads the virus by biting others. Those people then become carriers during the time they have symptoms.
Symptoms of Zika Virus Infection
In most people, symptoms of the virus are mild, including fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye. In fact, 80% of those infected never know they have the disease. That’s especially concerning for pregnant women, as this virus has now been shown to pass through amniotic fluid to the growing baby.
Current Locations Where Zika Virus Has Affected
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Zika virus is now being locally transmitted in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Zika
With no treatment or vaccine available, the only protection against Zika is to avoid travel to areas with an active infestation. If you travel to a country where Zika is present, the CDC advises strict adherence to mosquito protection measures.
If you have Zika, you can keep from spreading it to others by avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of your illness, says the CDC.
What’s Being Done To Stop Zika
Researchers are hard at work in laboratories around the world trying to create a Zika vaccine. A clinical trial of a Zika virus vaccine could begin this year, according to Fauci.
Until those efforts bear fruit, health officials are implementing traditional mosquito control techniques such as spraying pesticides and emptying standing water receptacles where mosquitoes breed. The CDC is encouraging local homeowners, hotel owners, and visitors to countries with Zika outbreaks to join in by also eliminating any standing water they see, such as in outdoor buckets and flower pots.
The virus has infected three British travelers; health officials said over the weekend.
“As of January 2016, three cases associated with travel to Colombia, Suriname and Guyana have been diagnosed in UK travelers,” Public Health England said on its website.
In the United States, there are confirmed cases of the virus among individuals who have traveled to infected countries, including in Illinois, Florida, and Texas, among others. However, there are no known cases of locally transmitted illness.
“These imported cases might result in a local human-to-mosquito-to-human spread of the virus in limited areas of the continental Unites States that have the appropriate mosquito vectors,” according to a new report on the spread of the virus issued by the CDC Friday.
There is, at least, one known case of a baby born with microcephaly believed to be linked to Zika in Hawaii.
2016 Olympics and Zika Virus
Brazil’s Olympic and Paralympic venues will be inspected daily during the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro; Games spokesman Phil Wilkinson said Sunday.
The Rio 2016 organizing committee is in regular contact with the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Municipal Health Department, which issue guidance on health issues in Brazil and Rio, according to Wilkinson.
The organizing committee will follow virus prevention and control measures provided by authorities and guide all who attend the Games, the spokesman said.
He noted that the Rio Games will take place during the winter months of August and September when the drier, cooler climate significantly reduces the presence of mosquitoes.
When traveling to these infected places endeavor to protect yourself against mosquito bites so as to avoid Zika because according to WHO, the virus has no vaccine nor cure. Travel safe.