What you need to know
Zika has seen its first case in Taiwan on January 19 and the virus’ outbreak in Brazil has drawn world attention as it’s found to be related to microcephaly: babies born with abnormally small heads. With mosquitos being its vector, there are concerns that the outbreak would not be stopped before the 2016 Olympics this August.
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Compiled by Vic Chiang
Closely related to the Dengue virus, Zika has seen its first case in Taiwan on January 19. The infected man was a male passenger from Thailand and was stopped at the custom just after he got off the plane at Taoyuan Airport because of having a fever. He was later detected with Zika. It is confirmed that the patient’s coworkers and flatmates are not infected with Zika. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also required doctors to report suspicious cases to the authorities within 24 hours.
While symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, red and bumpy rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis, 80% of the infected have no symptoms at all.
Zika virus’ major vector are mosquitoes, which often die in the cold, limiting the effect they have in the US, but remains a threat to countries in the tropical zone, raising possibilities for Zika to outbreak in Asia.
Overlooked on its severity, Zika virus started to raise concerns only after it was found that pregnant women that have contracted the virus might be giving birth to children with microcephaly. Microcephaly is often caused by a slow growing rate of the babies’ brains. In BBC’s interview with Mila, a Brazilian mother who gave birth to a baby with microcephaly, she said, “I had Zika, but like anybody else I didn’t give it any thought. It felt like a flu, or not even. Nobody cared about Zika.”
Though not definitive connection, Zika is found in many of the babies that were born with microcephaly or lost through miscarriage. Brazil has seen a spike of microcephaly cases since Zika broke out in the country last September. 3,893 newborns were detected with microcephaly in 2015 compared to the average of 140 to 150 cases per year before.
As the disease continues to endanger Brazil, there is fear that the Zika outbreak might influence the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August. The Telegraph reports, workers in protective overalls and goggles have been seen fumigating the Olympic Game venues before Rio de Janeiro’s world-renowned carnival in early February.
Currently it seems unlikely to deter the virus from further spreading. BBC reports, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office of WHO, has said in a statement, “PAHO anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.” At the same time, countries that ban abortion, like El Salvador, has made public announcements suggesting women to put off pregnancy until 2018.
Edited by Eric Tsai and Olivia Yang
Zika virus: Outbreak ‘likely to spread across Americas’ says WHO (BBC)
CDC considers travel warning for pregnant women due to Zika virus (CNN)
How to cut off the spread of a Zika virus (CNN)
Meet Dengue’s Cousin, Zika (Science Direct)
Brazil fumigates Olympic venue as fears mount over Zika (The Telegraph)
Zika Virus is Related to Dengue (UDN, Mandarin)