By: Melody Lee
My roommate tells me "Zika virus" without the word "virus" sounds like a name for a breed of parrots. Besides guessing what it sounds like, though, how many of us actually know what it is?
To start off with the basics, the Zika virus is a pathogen spread by mosquitos most active in the morning and late afternoon. Those directly infected with the Zika virus have relatively mild symptoms that include a "mild fever, skin rash, [red eyes], muscle and joint pain, and a mild headache"; these symptoms are known to last approximately two to seven days . According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "people usually don't get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected" . The only way for professionals to verify the infection at the moment is through a $500 test by Quest that tests for Zika virus RNA. This test uses a common technique called RT-PCR to find pieces of the virus in the patient’s blood . More recently, they are working on developing "labs like Weeden's," which utilize another type of test called the Zika MAC-ELISA. This test "looks for...a specific type of antibody that shows what foreign things the body has fought off recently." This technique is cheaper, more efficient, and even requires less "specialized training to perform" .
Besides the new options for diagnostic tests, however, the truth is that there is no treatment or vaccine for the virus itself yet. In fact, the vaccine for it may be "years away" from being developed. However, due to the fact that symptoms are usually not that serious, treatment usually only requires rest and well nourishment. The major concern as of now is its link to severe birth defects.
Photo used under Public Domain from cdc
Zika virus and birth defects:
Finally, the correlation of pregnant women and the Zika virus is that the population of babies with microcephaly have multiplied approximately twenty times since 2014. The Zika virus only became a pandemic in 2013 . However, rest assured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus usually "remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week"  and "based on available evidence... Zika virus infection in a woman who is not pregnant would not pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has cleared from her blood". It is also said that once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be "protected from a future Zika infection .
Overall, the Zika virus is far from being the scariest, most life-threatening pandemic known to mankind yet. However, they do seem to show correlation to several birth defects which can significantly affect child development and general lives of new families. Since the Zika virus’s relevance in the world is still new, we can only hope for the best and stay away from mosquito-borne areas!