New concerns about the Zika virus have risen following the 2016 Olympic games taking place in Rio in August. The influx of people will be a major catalyst to the spread of the virus as an estimated five hundred thousand tourists and foreigners get ready to travel to the city for the Olympic games.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most affected regions of the country with an incidence rate of 175 per 100,000, and recent studies from there on infected pregnant woman found that 29 percent demonstrated abnormalities such as microcephaly, cerebral atrophy, or brain calcifications.
Effects on adults are yet unknown but the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that in some cases, people affected by the Zika virus could trigger a Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome, an illness that causes a personâ€™s immune system to attack its own nervous cells. The WHO has yet to release a statement on whether or not travelling to Rio during the games is safe.
The multilateral health body meets for its annual meeting the World Health Assembly next week in Geneva. Zika is among the issues which are slated to be discussed by experts and public health professionals.
Other theories doing the rounds suggest that the spread of the virus may follow the same pattern of other known mosquito-transmitted diseases. Methods to deal with the Zika virus are being tested as well as strategies to fight against the transmission vector.
A British biotech company is currently testing genetically modified mosquitos in the Cayman Island, and says that this method is environmentally safe. As male mosquitoes do not bite, they will be released by the thousands and mate with their female counterparts which will produce offspring that will not grow till adulthood. A trial which began in April of 2015 in Brazil has demonstrated a reduction of the disease transmitting mosquito larvae by 82%. The army has also been called in to try and control the mosquito population by draining stagnant waters in affected areas.
Recent studies on the correlation between a Zika infection and an abnormal brain development at a foetal stage have emerged and demonstrated that the virus activates the TLR3 receptor. The TLR3, a protein of the TLR family is fundamental in the recognition and signalling of various pathogens in the body. The study demonstrates that a highly active TLR3 receptor during the early stages of brain development contributes to abnormal growth such as microcephaly.
As scientists and policy experts grapple with the Zika virus, one thing is certain - we haven't heard the last of the infection or methods to grapple with a fast developing situation.
The News Minute and the World Health Communication Associates (WHCA) have come together to cover the annual World Health Assembly (May 23-28, 2016). This is an aggregated report.
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