Do You Speak Zika?

Zika Virus_772


Zika in a nutshell; instead of going all over the place looking for info, I compiled here the most important details about Zika; there is even a fun fact at the end of this column. Zika should also serve as warning to all those who ignore scientists’ warnings. It’s okay to be stupid as long as your stupidity doesn’t affect my survival on this planet.

What is Zika?
By now, you must have heard of ZIKA; well, when I first heard the word, I thought, what a beautiful word for a game! It turns out Zika is a very dangerous virus, especially for newborns; naturally, women who are pregnant should be concerned.

The nitty gritty of Zika
The noise and panic caused by the Zika outbreaks are not completely warranted; Zika is not a new virus. It was first discovered in the 1940’s with sporadic cases throughout Africa and South Asia. In 2007, the first case occurred in the Pacific. In 2013, small number of outbreaks was documented in Africa and the western Pacific. The same year, Zika cases were recorded in America.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website reported that outbreaks of Zika were previously recorded in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika virus will likely continue to spread to new areas according to CDC. People who were previously infected may become resistant to the virus i.e. they cannot be infected again (that’s good news for the Zika veterans).Women infected with the Zika virus while pregnant may give birth to babies with a brain defect called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.

The Zika cases registered here in the United come from individuals who travelled to and returned from one of the “hot zones” (where the virus is rampant). According to American Scientific magazine, all the people with reported infections in the United States had traveled to countries, including Haiti, Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, El Salvador, Colombia, Easter Island/Chile, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Cook Islands, and Polynesia.

As of this writing, not a single case of the virus has originated here in the country but we should not be complacent; according to CDC, the mosquito species Aedes which transmits the virus with a sting (or a bite) is present in the United States with the highest concentration in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona. So, if you live in any of those states, you should be vigilant and take appropriate precautions not to be exposed. If you are pregnant, it is recommended you stay indoors, preferably in air conditioned environment, as much as possible. If you are pregnant and think you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, it’s wise to visit your physician immediately.

Who has Zika?
Brazil has the highest number of cases (find out why in the section “Zika, An Experiment Gone Wrong”) where babies are already infected with the virus; as of this writing, there were already over 4200 such cases. Here in the United States, there are 31 recorded cases, New York reported seven as of this writing, all of whom are individuals returning from areas considered “hot zones” of the virus.  Per CDC, the information below are the most current regarding the 31 cases of Zika in the country:

  • Arkansas – 1 case originating from Central America
  • California – 6 cases (2 from 2015 and the rest from 2013 and 2014)
  • Florida – 3 cases originating from Colombia and Venezuela
  • Hawaii – 1 case of a woman who gave birth to a child with microcephaly and had lived in Brazil
  • Illinois – 2 cases originating from Honduras and Haiti (both women were pregnant)
  • Minnesota – 1 case originating from Honduras
  • Montana – Not confirmed, but one case may have been discovered in northwest Montana, but labs haven’t confirmed it yet
  • New Jersey – 1 case originating in Colombia
  • New York – At least 7 cases
  • Oregon – 3 cases originating from Polynesia
  • Texas – 2 cases originating from El Salvador and Colombia
  • Virginia – 1 case from Central America
  • Wisconsin

Zika, an experiment Gone Wrong
In an effort to reduce the rapid spread of the dengue fever in Brazil, Oxitec – a British biotech company which pioneers way to control insect pests that spread disease and damage crops; it was recently acquired by Intrexon, a synthetic biology company based in Maryland. The company said it has released bugs in parts of Brazil and the Cayman Islands to battle dengue fever – revealed its large-scale, genetically-modified (GM) mosquito experiment in Brazil in July 2012. The experiment was hailed a success; the GM Mosquitoes could not fly more than 400 meters and their offspring would die before they become mature. However, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher (a genetic scientist and a member of the British Society for Allergy, Environmental and Nutritional Medicine) expressed concerns in a report that a known survival rate of 3-4 percent warranted further study before the release of the GM insects. Her concerns, echoed by several other scientists at the time, were completely ignored. Dr. Ricarda was right; in fact, further studies revealed that the survival rate of the GM Mosquitoes was close to 15% (higher than Dr. Ricarda believed) due in part to the presence of tetracycline in the food fed to the larvae (naturally called OX513A). Despite those warnings by scientists, in July 2015, the decision makers at Oxitec went ahead and released the GM Mosquitoes in Juazeiro, located in the northeastern region of Brazil. They went out to celebrate the great success of controlling the Aedes mosquitoes which spread the dengue fever in the region. Ironically, according to a BBC report, Brazil registered a 235% surge (368 per 100,000 residents) in cases of dengue fever in 2015. The success celebrated at Oxitec was a total disaster; to make matters worse, the zika outbreak occurred as well.

Remark: Climate change deniers should heed warnings by scientists; catastrophes such as those could easily destroy America. Too many people without knowledge, without facts are armed with powerful means to propagate falsehoods to millions and millions of gullible viewers and listeners. It’s not farfetched to extrapolate the extinction of human race due to those sorts of misinformation. Beware!


How Does Zika Spread?
It all begins with a mosquito bite; well, not just any mosquito, the Aedes species, the same insect responsible for other illnesses such as dengue fever.

Like Ebola, Zika is contagious; the carrier, the person who is already infected, may not display any of the known symptoms (fever, muscle pain, headache, etc.) So, if your male spouse took a recent trip to any of the “hot zones” (where those mosquitos abound) and you are pregnant, you may want to avoid physical contact until the air is cleared (at least 10 days). Needless to say if you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t travel to those areas.

The Cure for Zika
There is no cure; the scientific community does not yet have a good understanding of the virus to concoct a vaccine. According to the CDC chief scientist, a cure for the Zika virus may be years away. So, the best defense is to stay away from areas that are most likely to breed the mosquitoes, Latin America (Brazil in particular) and the Caribbean.

What If You Are Infected with Zika
If you think you are infected, the recommendations are to drink plenty of fluids, have plenty of rest and take Tylenol to reduce fever and pain but under no circumstance, do not take Aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you don’t mind paying a medical bill to hear your doctor tell you there is no cure, by all means run to the hospital.

I do ponder whether US should build a wall to stop the flood of the Zika virus into the country

Fun Fact on  Zika
Mosquitoes are naturally sexist; only the females bite (causing pain), sucking the blood out (weakening the immune system); the males are much too considerate to do any such harm to humans.

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs. Dengue fever is spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes which carries the Zika virus.


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