Several Zika cases have been discovered across the U.S. over the last few weeks. Some preventive measures are being taken by health officials to avoid further spread of the virus, which can have significant consequences in pregnant women.
Five cases of the Zika virus were reported in Alabama by local health officials. The infected had recently traveled to countries known to have the Zika epidemic. One of those infected patients currently lives in Jefferson County while the others are from Houston County, according to a press release from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
None of the cases were transmitted by local mosquitoes, the disease was imported in at least one instance from Puerto Rico, as reported by CBS Local.
With the latest Zika cases, public health departments are making sure the virus stated controlled by increasing its surveillance. The infected patients, particularly those in Alabama, will be asked for the name of sexual partners and other members of the household, which will regularly be monitored for the illness.
Health authorities also encouraged people with constant contact with the infected ones to use insect repellent to prevent the spread of the disease through mosquito bites. The animals responsible for carrying the virus is known as the Aedes aegypti, and although it is present in Alabama, this is not so large in numbers.
The symptoms of the disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis or red eyes. The illness is usually mild with its symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the most worrying facts about the Zika virus is that it could be dangerous for pregnant women, due to it can cause a severe birth defect called microcephaly and other serious fetal brain damage, the CDC said.
— The Hill (@thehill) March 17, 2016
Others infected states
The latest cases are not the only ones found across the country recently, according to the CDC data. Exactly 591 Zika cases have been officially confirmed by the CDC in the U.S., with most of the people infected from Florida, New York, and California, respectively.
However, the patients in most of the U.S. states were qualified as travel-associated cases. Other U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico has nearly 100 confirmed cases originated in the area while the Virgin Islands had only 15.
Zika, a worldwide fight
Brazil’s authorities have informed in the past that the Zika virus has been found in patient’s saliva and urine, making possible the transmission via fluids and adding more difficulties to stop the spread.
The virus was previously thought to be transmitted primarily from mosquito bites. But with the new findings that proved the presence of the virus in the saliva and urine new worries about the health’s population are on the rise. U.S. officials also assured that it could be transmitted through sex and blood transfusions. Even cases of this kind of infections have been already found.
Researchers used genetic testing to identify the Zika virus in the corporal fluids from two patients who had previously tested positive for the virus. They concluded that the virus was active, meaning that could lead to a potential infection in a healthy person. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation scientists said the in the case of saliva and urine further investigation is needed, but they cannot say that there is no possibility of transmission.
“In light of an opportunity to be in contact with someone who is infected, do not kiss, apparently,” Dr. Paulo Gadelha, the foundation’s president, told reporters.
A scientific consensus over Zika
It is well now that Zika virus shares a link with neurological disorders like the microcephaly in newborns, but the link, even though there is statistical implications over the virus and the birth defect, has not been scientifically proven. There is no prove how the virus does it.
— RISE (@DebugtheMyths) March 25, 2016
In a science meeting held by the World Health Organization (WHO), researchers debated over the possible link. However, they concluded that now there is the scientific consensus that Zika virus is implicated in these neurological disorders, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a statement.
It was determined that the continuous spread needed an urgent action for the organization that should not wait for definitive proof, she added. Currently, there are more than 30 companies across the world working on or have developed potential diagnostic tests. For vaccines, 23 projects are being worked on by several developers but none for immediate future.
Some of those developments should move into clinical trials before the end of the year, but others may require more time as they are fully tested and a vaccine is ready for use, commented WHO director.