Deadly disease with no cure on the prowl! Virus that shrinks skulls of babies spreading by the dozen!
Just when we thought dengue and malaria are the most dangerous things done by mosquitoes, there comes along yet another epidemic outbreak, and this time, with no vaccine and no cure. The Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes is spreading at an alarming rate, capable of shrinking babies’ skulls permanently. Something like, “Honey, I shrunk the kids!”
1 What is this Zika virus?
Zika virus is a member of the virus family of Flaviviridae and the flavivirus genus. This virus was first detected back in the year 1947, isolated from a Rhesus monkey, in the Zika Forest in Uganda, Africa, during an outbreak of yellow fever, and hence the name. This virus is transmitted via the Aedes mosquitoes. In humans, it is said to cause a mild fever called the Zika fever.
The Zika fever is similar to and much along the lines of dengue and yellow fever, but it cannot be prevented by drugs or vaccines, nor can it be cured. The infection begins around the skin cells near the site of the mosquito bite, then spreads to the lymph nodes and then into the bloodstream.
The Aedes mosquito that transmits this virus is active in the daytime. In the year 2009, studies suggested that amongst humans, the disease could be transmitted sexually. Also, the RNA of the Zika virus was detected in the amniotic fluid in two fetuses, which implied that it crossed the placental barrier making fetal infection possible.
2 The 2015 Brazilian outbreak
This was the first ever incident where the virus was linked the babies’ skulls. After 2,782 cases were registered in 2015, as compared to some 147 in 2014, medical authorities were quick to link the deformation of the skulls of babies during pregnancy to mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Local authorities suspected the outbreak was due to an increased influx of foreign visitors attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The situation may have been aggravated due to the large population of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in the region.
Prior to this, in the year 2007, there was an outbreak in the Yap Island region, the first time it was detected outside of Africa or Asia. The Yap islands are a chain of islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, in the North Pacific Ocean.
3 Shrunken Skulls of babies
The Zika virus that traveled to fetuses through the mother’s placenta was causing an incurable case of microcephaly. This is a neuro developmental disorder that is defined by the circumference of the head shrinking almost two standard deviations below of what it should be according to the normal age and sex of the baby. ‘Microcephaly’ literally translates into ‘small headedness’.
4 Regions affected by it
A previous instance of an outbreak of such a condition was followed by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in Japan.
Across South America, numerous babies were being born with an abnormally small brain and skull. These serious neuro developmental issues are permanent, and require life-long treatment or result in an early death.
Doctors in Brazil are now investigating twenty nine infant deaths, and health officials have advised women to postpone becoming pregnant because there is currently no known treatment for the disorder, apart from the trivial precautionary measure of preventing yourself from getting bitten by a mosquito, which is rather inevitable.
At least forty infants in Brazil have reportedly succumbed to this disease. Some Brazilian researches also claim that the casualties could multiply over a few months.