The World Health Organization on Monday declared a world public well being emergency over the Zika virus, which it mentioned is “spreading explosively” in South America. The announcement got here after an emergency session in Geneva.
In addition, a second case of the virus has been reported in Virginia. Officials on the College of William & Mary mentioned a pupil who visited Central America throughout winter break contracted the sickness, however they don’t consider this poses a well being threat to anybody on campus.
The virus, which first emerged in Uganda’s Zika Forest after World War II, appeared in Brazil final May and has been linked to hundreds of circumstances of microcephaly, a situation during which infants are born with small heads due to poor mind improvement throughout their mom’s pregnancies.
Dr. William Petri, Wade Hampton Frost Professor of Medicine within the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, spoke with UVA Today in regards to the unfold of the Zika virus and its implications.
Q. Can you describe the Zika Virus? How is it unfold?
Q. How is it unfold?
A. Zika virus is unfold by mosquito bites. It is in the identical household of viruses as dengue and yellow fever. They are all unfold by mosquitoes. It’s within the household of Aedes mosquitoes. They exist all over the place from Argentina to the southern United States.
Q. Why did it instantly seem in Latin America?
A. We most likely won’t ever know why it appeared in Brazil. Presumably what occurred was a traveler from Africa or Asia who had the virus of their bloodstream was bitten by a mosquito in Brazil, organising a sequence of endemic transmission of Zika virus.
Q. The sickness has been linked to very severe delivery defects. What are you aware about how Zika can have an effect on newborns?
A. I don’t suppose we all know but. There is a regarding affiliation of microcephaly, or small heads, in kids born of moms who have been contaminated with Zika virus. This has been seen in Brazil. But proper now it’s an affiliation and it has not been conclusively proven that it is because of Zika virus.
Q. There are 31 reported circumstances of Zika virus within the United States, a kind of in Virginia. Is the United States prone to an outbreak of the virus?
A. Fortunately, immediately within the United States we aren’t having transmission of Zika virus. The circumstances of Zika an infection that we’ve got had are all in vacationers who’re coming back from international locations the place there’s transmission.
Virginians shouldn’t be nervous proper now as a result of we’re within the midst of winter and the mosquitoes are all lifeless.
Q. The WHO says as many as four million folks may very well be contaminated by the tip of the yr. Why is Zika virus spreading so quickly?
A. It’s most likely a few issues. Mosquito-borne sicknesses have the potential of fast unfold. The different factor is that there’s not preexisting immunity in any respect to Zika. This is a brand new viral an infection within the Americas. The WHO projections are most likely fairly affordable so far as the variety of circumstances to anticipate.
Q. What precautions can folks, significantly girls of childbearing age, take to guard themselves?
A. There is sufficient of a priority that it’s prudent that somebody who’s pregnant not journey to an space the place there’s Zika virus transmission. The use of mosquito repellent is basically crucial for all vacationers, not simply girls who’re pregnant, as a result of that won’t solely assist forestall Zika virus, however dengue, malaria, leishmaniosis or different vector-borne ailments.
It can also be essential from a public well being standpoint that vacationers to Zika endemic areas use mosquito repellant, as a result of what we don’t need to do is set up endemic transmission within the United States. If we had a variety of vacationers coming again to the United States with Zika virus of their bloodstream, then we’ve got the potential for truly establishing transmission with the Aedes mosquitoes which might be within the southern U.S.
Q. There isn’t any vaccine for Zika virus, which is in the identical household as yellow fever. UVA medical college graduate Walter Reed confirmed that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes, a discovery that led to the creation of a vaccine for the virus. Could this work have an effect on making a vaccine for Zika virus?
A. You might say that Walter Reed laid the groundwork in 1900 for the invention that Zika virus is mosquito-borne.
Q. Brazil is internet hosting the Summer Olympics. How can Rio make the surroundings protected for this large occasion?
A. I don’t know, however I might assume Brazil may have a really, very aggressive management program for mosquitoes within the areas surrounding the Summer Games. That can be predicted to be very efficient.
The motive the Panama Canal was efficiently constructed by the Americans was Walter Reed’s discovery that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes. Then-Surgeon General William Gorgas instituted a mosquito management program in Panama that allowed them to efficiently construct the canal with out all the employees contracting yellow fever.
Q. Can folks be re-infected by Zika virus?
A. No. It is a self-limited an infection. You get better from it and are resistant to re-infection. So this explosive case of infections can’t proceed. As immunity within the inhabitants grows, the transmission will gradual. Mosquito management applications will go a good distance and using private insect repellant like DEET will assist shield the person.