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What is the Zika Virus?

There's a lot the scientific community still has to learn about the Zika virus. Because it was previously so rare, it wasn't very well studied and very little is know about this recently emerged flavivirus, Zika Virus or Zikv. It is transmitted by the aedes mosquitoes and is similar to the recent outbreak of chikungunya which occurred in the Americas in 2014.

Authorities are cautious in their distribution of information, but point out that this new virus may be linked to a rash of newborns from the northeastern state of Ceara, Brazil, with microcephaly and other congenital issues. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age. There is also a tenuous link between the Zika Virus and STD's from a Colorado-based malaria researcher who may have passed the virus to his wife after a research trip to Senegal.

To date there is no vaccine or preventive drug available for the use against the Zika Virus.

The Zika Virus is classified as a Flavivirus which is a genus of viruses in the family Flaviviridae. This genus includes the West Nile virus, dengue virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus and yellow fever. Studies show that the extrinsic incubation period in mosquitoes is about 10 days. The hosts of the virus include monkeys and humans but other animals or insects may also be carriers.

The situation is evolving rapidly, with more countries in South and Central America reporting cases. This rapid spread of ZIKV strains closely related to the French Polynesian strains, raises increasing concern for public health. As of January 2016, no deaths have been reported in any of the outbreaks.

Experts believe that climate change is likely allowing the mosquitoes that carry Zika Fever to increase their territorial confines and as human populations grow and move into urban areas with larger populations in closer contact, the risk of disease transmission and the possibility of emerging epidemics increases as in the case of Dengue, Chikungunya and now the Zika Virus.





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