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How Travel And Sex Make US Vulnerable To Mosquito-Borne Zika That Causes Birth Defects

5 January 2016, 6:16 am EST By Katherine Derla Tech Times
Honeymoon

In Brazil, the spread of a mosquito-borne virus called Zika has been associated with the rise of microcephaly cases. In 2015, the country has more than 2,400 reported microcephaly cases across 20 states.

Six states in Brazil declared a state of emergency and health officials advised married couples to put off pregnancy until both Zika and microcephaly cases have mitigated.

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small brain and heads. The condition carries severe development issues and can result in infant death.

The Zika virus has spread outside Brazil. In October 2015, Zika cases were documented in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico. In January, Zika cases in Puerto Rico also popped up.

American travelers who vacationed in affected regions showed positive results when tested for Zika virus. To date, there is no treatment or vaccine for Zika. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests carrying an insect-repellant creams and spray, sleeping in air-conditioned rooms with the windows shielded by screens and wearing long-sleeved tops and pants to prevent mosquito bites.

Transfusion-Associated Zika Case

The Zika virus is transmitted to human hosts from the bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitos. In December 2015, an alleged transfusion-associated Zika case was reported in Brazil.

According to Marcelo Addas Carvalho from the University of Campinas' Blood Center Hematology Division, a patient received a blood transfusion from an infected donor. Carvalho said the blood donor is a 52-year-old man who donated blood at the university's Blood Center. Without any symptoms, he didn't know that he was infected.

However, three days after donating blood, he became symptomatic. The Adolpho Lutz Institute preformed a virus isolation and sequencing and both patients recovered from the Zika infection.

Sexually Transmitted Zika Case

There are also cases of sexually transmitted Zika infection. Malaria researchers Brian Foy and Kevin Kobylinski from the Colorado State University returned to Colorado from their trip in Senegal, West Africa where they collected mosquitoes.

Foy and his wife, Joy Chilson Foy, became ill a few days after his return. His wife didn't join him in his trip to Senegal but they reported to having vaginal sex upon his return before the clinical symptoms took place five days later. His co-researcher Kobylinski also became ill after five days.

Zika Symptoms

Unfortunately, most Zika infections do not have early symptoms. The illness takes place three to 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The Zika infection can last from four to seven days.

Zika symptoms are normally confused with that of more common mosquito-borne diseases like Chikungunya and dengue. These include joint pain, fever, rash and headache. Conjunctivitis, which is also known as "pink eye", is the inflammation of the eye's conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis is a symptom more common with Zika infection.

Photo: Natesh Ramasamy | Flickr

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