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Zika Virus: A Modern Day Epidemic

Disease outbreak is not something that we haven’t heard about before. In the history of mankind, there have been several instances wherein the world has been threatened with wide-scale disease outbreaks. To name a few, there was the Smallpox Epidemic in 1633, the Yellow Fever Outbreak in 1793, the Asian Flu Pandemic in 1957, and AIDS that has been going on since the 1980s. However, whether wide-scale disease outbreaks are something that we have seen before or not, their threat for human survival still remains. And with the increasing cases of people being infected with the  Zika Virus, humanity is once again facing a threat in survival.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika Virus is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first identified in 1947 as a mosquito-borne flavivirus, Aedes mosquitoes, in monkeys through a network that monitored yellow fever. The very first cases of the virus on humans were identified in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. There were even outbreaks that have been recorded in Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific through 1960s and 1980s. Its first large outbreak was recorded in the Island of Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) in 2007. Symptoms of Zika infection are typically identified with mild illness which are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache which usually lasts from 2 to 7 days. On October 2015, it was reported in Brazil that there is an association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly.

Microcephaly has been defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected.  During pregnancy, a baby’s head grows because the baby’s brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain did not developed properly during pregnancy or stopped growing after birth, which results to a smaller head size. Microcephaly can be an isolated condition, meaning that it can occur with no other major birth defects, or it can occur in combination with other major birth defects. However, there are still sever cases in which microcephaly lead to seizures, developmental delay, such as problems with speech, decreased ability to learn and function in daily life, problems with movement and balance, feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing, hearing loss, and vision problems.

With this recent discovery on the Zika virus, the World Health Organization has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on February 2016. As of the moment, it is still yet unknown how likely a pregnant woman is to get Zika once she is exposed but it has been confirmed that, aside from a bite from an infected mosquito, it also likely to be spread by men to sex partners, and that women can pass it to their fetus during pregnancy or delivery. Since Zika has usually mild symptoms and requires no specific treatment, people sick with the virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

It is still unknown how the Zika Virus could affect the current healthcare trend since this has been the first outbreak that has been identified after the boom of healthcare outsourcing and the recent implementation of the Obama Care or Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) but it is expected that it will play a vital role in recording cases for research purposes and making medical breakthroughs.

For more information about Zika Virus, you may check the WH v O Q&A board.

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