FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, a researcher holds a container of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute at Sao Paulo University in Brazil. The Zika virus is mainly transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

An infected mother can transmit the virus to the foetus and the affected foetus will be born with defects such as microcephaly, a condition in children born with abnormal smallness of the head with incomplete brain development, eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth, loss of pregnancy and other pregnancy complications.

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, a researcher holds a container of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute at Sao Paulo University in Brazil. The Zika virus is mainly transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, a researcher holds a container of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute at Sao Paulo University in Brazil. The Zika virus is mainly transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

WHO has warned that if the situation is not curtailed, there will be huge increase in the number of children born with mental disabilities. Recent research shows that the virus can be sexually transferred from a man to women therefore exposing pregnant women to a greater possibility of contracting the disease, hence posing a major risk of many children being born with microcephaly and other associated defects.

Since the outbreak of Zita virus in 2015, Brazilian officials have recorded about 2500 microcephaly cases. Research and developing of vaccine to fight the disease is currently underway in USA, France, India, Austria and Brazil to protect pregnant women and women of child bearing age whose babies risk being severely disabled by Zika virus. Cases of the disease have also risen in South American countries, and the Caribbean. Among the Western countries, there have been confirmed cases in Spain, France, United States of America and Canada. Canada has recorded over 50 cases of which most are suspected to have been sexually transmitted.

WHO issued a recent report which indicates that as seasonal temperatures begin to rise in Europe, two species of Aedes mosquito, which are known to transmit the virus, will begin to circulate. This mosquito season, coupled with the virus ability to be sexually transmitted, makes it a major health issue that all countries must join hands in fighting.

Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have subsequently been recorded in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms, lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realise they have been infected. The virus can be sexually transmitted from a man to his partner; as a result the disease has potential of spreading across the globe.

Recently in Brazil, local health authorities have observed among the general public, an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome which coincided with Zika virus infections. Guillian-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. Feeling weak and tingling are the early symptoms, these sensation can spread quickly and eventually paralyse the whole body.

According to WHO, despite many researches little is known about the disease and there is no vaccine currently available to prevent the disease. Therefore tourists and people travelling to the Americas or Europe should take precautionary measures such as avoiding mosquito bites, practising safe sex, clearing fumigating areas with mosquito. Pregnant women are advised to take extra precaution, especially those with husbands living in the Americas; WHO recommend the use of condoms with partners or total abstinence from sex during pregnancy.

Source: Public Agenda
By Evelyn Addor

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