The Latest on Zika and What to Expect

Author: Mosquito Squad of The Triad

Mosquito Squad had the great pleasure to see and hear Dr. Tim Lane speak at Rotary in Greensboro on what we can expect with the Zika virus in the near future. ​Dr. Timothy W. Lane, MD is emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and for twenty years was the Chief of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Cone Health System in Greensboro, NC. He began the first infectious diseases consulting program in Greensboro in 1978. Over the past two decades, Dr. Lane served as hospital epidemiologist for the Cone Health System, a multi-campus system with over 1200 beds that includes the 550 bed Moses Cone Hospital, a tertiary care community-teaching hospital.

Dr. Lane discussed the history and reasons Zika has made a substantial presence in South and Central America, and the Carribean regions. The Zika virus was first discovered 69 years ago in primates in Uganda, but was obviously around but never detected for many years. The virus is most active in the tropics and sub tropics where 2/3 of worlds population live. Because of the prevalence of mosquitoes in these areas, the transmission of the virus by mosquito bites is by far the number one way the virus spreads. It is transmitted mostly by the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are present in Eastern and Southeastern United States, which is the concern for it becoming more of a health concern in our area.

The symptoms of the virus in full force on the human body are a fever of 102-103 degrees, severe body aches, and a rash. The virus itself is rarely deadly but can cause severe prolonged health issues such as Microcephaly (small head and brain size in newborns) and Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome in older adults.

It can also be transmitted by sex. Men can carry the virus without knowing in testes for up to 3 months. Since 80% of the people who contract the virus only have minor symptoms, they may get a mosquito bite and not be aware they are carrying the infection. It is suggested men that travel to the tropics have protected sex for 6 months after their return.

Dr. Lane states that 5-10% of pregnant woman infected with Zika transmit the virus to their babies. Of those infected babies, 50% will be afflicted with microcephaly. Some will show more severe symptoms of small head and brain size and because of that can have life long mental and brain function issues.

According to Dr. Lane, there are possible vaccines in development. They will start human testing in the regions most affected starting in the Spring 2017, and expand the testing to larger populations if those results are promising. This testing and approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration is a lengthy process. The best case scenario has a working vaccine in place in 2 years, according to Dr. Lane.

What happens in the U.S. with the spread of Zika remains unclear. It is possible, but not certain, that we may see more cases. While there are several cases in the U.S. of Zika, only a very few in Florida are the result of transmission by mosquito bites that occurred in Florida. Most cases have been brought in from people that have traveled outside of the U.S. If you are concerned of the possible transmission of this virus and others by mosquitoes, you can look at for tips and advice on how to prevent the spread of mosquitoes on your personal property.

#zika #microcephaly #zikavirus future