Zika Viral Infection Increasing, 2 Pregnant Women in Illinois Positive
In Illinois, two pregnant women tested positive for Zika virus, a rare tropical virus transmitted by mosquitos, which is said to cause birth defects. These two women had traveled recently to countries where the virus is found and they are currently being monitored by physicians, according to the Department of Public Health in Illinois.
“There is virtually no risk to Illinois residents since you cannot contract Zika virus from another person, but only through the bite of an infected mosquito. But since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to take preventive measures when travelling in affected countries and check health travel advisories,” says Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised pregnant women to postpone travelling to 22 countries and territories (including Brazil and Mexico) where Zika virus is prevalent.
Brief History of Zika Outbreak
The Zika virus started to occur in Brazil and other South American countries in the middle of 2015. Then authorities in Brazil noticed there’s an increasing incidence of newborns with microcephaly — a condition where the child has a smaller head than normal with missing or underdeveloped parts of the brain. As of the weekend, Brazilian authorities said that there were about 4,000 babies with microcephaly since October 2015.
Per CDC, about 20% of the people infected with the Zika virus will show symptoms. They are generally mild, which includes fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The virus has been linked to dangerous complications in pregnant women — the microcephaly. At least 19 of the babies suffering from microcephaly died.
According to the US CDC, they found a fingerprint of the virus in placentas of women who gave birth to babies with defects. The World Health Organization said that further research is needed.
Transmission of Zika Virus
The virus is primarily transmitted through a bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Researchers are recently studying whether it is possible for pregnant women to pass Zika to their babies during pregnancy. Although rare, there were cases when the virus was passed from mother to fetus during delivery. There was even a report of possible spread through sexual contact.
Where did it spread?
Zika virus occurs sporadically; it infected people living in Africa and in some parts of South and Southeast Asia, with only 14 cases. The virus recently spread in the Americas in 2014 and Brazil in 2015. Aside from Illinois, there was one case of Zika confirmed in Houston, Texas last week. On Friday, the first case of microcephaly was reported in Hawaii.
Treatment of the Virus
There is no treatment for the virus; the main focus of the doctors is to manage the symptoms. WHO recommends taking extra precautions against mosquito bites especially in areas that are affected by the Zika. Meanwhile, CDC recommends postponing travelling to those areas while transmission is ongoing.