The Spread of the Zika Virus

The Spread of the Zika Virus

Katy Walz

In 1947, Uganada recognized an outbreak of the Zika virus, and for the next fifty years, this virus would remain mostly isolated there. It then began to spread quickly throughout Africa. As of 2014, this virus had spread into the Americas, with outbreaks as far up as into Mexico. The cases in the United States and Canada were not bred there – more than 80 cases were carried there by travelers returning home. There have been cases of local mosquito-borne outbreaks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the America Samoa. A total of 27 countries and territories in North and South America have current transportation of this virus.

Brazil, since 2015, has had a significant increase in Zika virus outbreaks and diagnoses, and has one of the highest child birth defect rates due to the Zika Virus. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) explains how although the Zika virus is spread through mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes, once someone is infected it can be spread sexually or by blood. With this discovery the idea of contraception is put into a moral question for religion – Pope Francis even appeared to condone the usage of contraception in his speech, but with good reason. The Zika virus has a particular danger to pregnant women, as it is thought to cause a birth defect in the baby’s brain size or cause a miscarriage. With this, the baby cannot fully develop, causing the birth defect known as microcephaly. In rare cases, the CDC says that this can lead to temporary paralysis in which there is a possible link to Guillain-Barre syndrome. It is still in question whether the Zika virus is in fact linked to microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre. More research is beginning to be directed at the Zika Virus, specifically the potential link with paralysis.  The United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is also beginning to develop a possible vaccine.