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Friday, February 5, 2016

Zika Disease

Viruses never stop evolving.  The newest severe viral mutation to attacks humans is called "Zika".  It seems to have appeared rather suddenly in tropical South America, is spreading quickly, and is serious to pregnant women.  If this seems like the setup for a bad joke (like the old one about "di-hydrogen monoxide", it isn't.

If you haven't heard of it yet, the Zika virus is "spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon".

Most people who are exposed to the virus won't even know it.  However, in pregnant women, it can cause birth defects and failed pregnancies.   One serious result is "microcephaly" (small head).

It is mainly in the tropical areas now, but moving slowly north through Mexico.  There have been several cases in the US from people who had traveled to infected areas.  But I saw a report tonight that said one woman in Florida had become infected without travelling to the infected areas.  There is a possibility that it was transmitted sexually.

There is currently no test for Zika virus.  The news report suggested that blood supplies could become contaminated with the virus and that the US could become subject to direct infection from mosquitoes as warmer weather to come allows mosquitoes to spread slowly and infected (but not showing symptoms) individuals travel.

I wonder what the first report of serious influenza mutations looked like in the past?  For every major disease, there is always some first reports that don't realize the seriousness to come.

I explained THAT to write THIS...

Not to make light of something that could, in a year or two, be a serious medical emergency, I also heard a news report statement that just baffles me.  The statement said "men should abstain from having sex with women who are trying to become pregnant". 

Now, think about that.  I'll assume that most women who are "trying to become pregnant" are in some sort of stable relationship with a man.  If the man is abstaining from sex with that woman, just how is she "trying to become pregnant".  It takes two to tango...

If the man is abstaining from sex with his stable partner, there ISN'T going to be any "trying to become pregnant"!  I have to assume the news editor noticed the illogic at some point, because the news streamer at the bottom of the screen dropped it after some short time.

And also, the new viral disease "Zika" caused the Tata Car company in India to regret their new "Zica" car name (short for "zippy car"). 

But back to seriousness; I sure hope a test and preventative vaccination is found soon.  Otherwise, this could become the new AIDS.

And it is another example of climate change.  The mosquitoes that can carry and spread this virus can only spread because the world is getting warmer.  Various mosquitoes survive and reproduce in limited temperature ranges.  An average difference of only 1 degree in Winter temperatures can mean survival or death for them. 

1 degree in temperature does not mean that much to us humans.  So we heat the house a little bit more; BFD.  But it means that some mosquitoes can move 100 miles north...

1 comment:

Megan said...

I don't agree that Zika may become the new AIDS, given that it only has very mild symptoms for those who are infected - except pregnant women. The potential impact on unborn babies is devastating, but for the rest of us, this seems to be of a media beat up than anything else - perhaps akin to bird flu of some years ago.

Sydney, Australia