The World Health Organization announced on Friday that the suspected link between the Zika virus and 2 birth defects: microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome could be confirmed within weeks. But other studies have already confirmed the connections between the virus and the two neurological disorders.
Researchers from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia isolated the entire Zika virus genome from the brain tissue of a fetus aborted at 32 weeks of pregnancy after multiple ultrasounds confirmed microcephaly and suggested a poor outcome for the fetus.
Furthermore, Marcelo Castro, Brazil’s health minister said on Friday that authorities were absolutely sure that the Zika virus is connected to birth defects. Castro said that even though the link has not been scientifically proven the rise in reported cases of microcephaly happening at the same time of an outbreak of the virus in South America’s largest country could not be just a coincidence.
“We are absolutely sure of the causal relationship between microcephaly and Zika. It has nothing to do with the environment, nothing to do with race, nothing to do with gender.” Castro said in a statement.
Meanwhile, The World Health Organization advised pregnant women from around the globe not to travel to Zika-affected areas. WHO’s Christopher Dye told reporters in Washington that they had got to the point where the virus is considered guilty until proven innocent referring to the fact that even though WHO has not officially announced the connection between the conditions, everything suggests it is a reality.
There’s no vaccine to prevent Zika infection yet, perhaps because the virus had been considered harmless. The WHO said two vaccine candidates are actively working in developing a vaccine as soon as possible. One of them is a DNA vaccine from the US National Institutes of Health, and the other an inactivated product from Bharat Biotech, in India. But, it could take at least 18 months to start large-scale clinical trials of potential preventative shots.
The CDC has said it does not expect the Zika virus to become widespread in the United States. However, isolated pockets of the virus could crop up this spring and summer in southern parts of the United States and officials from the Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed that one travel-related Zika case has been identified in the state.
To keep prevention measures, U.S. health officials are shipping test kits for the Zika virus to health departments around the country. These kits are especially to be used by pregnant women returning from Latin America and the Caribbean.