The search for a vaccine is being led by scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch to contain the spread of the Zika Virus which has spread to more than 20 countries, and causing panic in Brazil where thousands of people are reported infected.
The virus, according to BBC report, is linked to shrunken brains in unborn children, leading to severe brain damage or death.
There is currently no vaccine or cure, and diagnostic testing is difficult.
Speaking to the BBC inside the facility, Professor Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, said people were right to be frightened by the virus.
“It’s certainly a very significant risk,” he said, “and if infection of the foetus does occur and microcephaly develops we have no ability to alter the outcome of that very bad disease which is sometimes fatal or leaves children mentally incapacitated for the remainder of their life”.
The Zika virus was discovered in monkeys in 1947 in Uganda’s Zika Forest, with the first human case registered in Nigeria in 1954 but for decades it did not appear to pose much of a threat to people and was largely ignored by the scientific community.
It was only with an outbreak on the Micronesian island of Yap in 2007 that some researchers began to take an interest.
In the past year the virus “exploded” said Prof Weaver, sweeping through the Caribbean and Latin America “infecting probably a couple of million people”.
What is Zika Virus Fever? (Definition/Background Information)
Zika Virus Fever is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus. Individuals with the condition typically experience a mild fever, joint pain, rashes, and reddening of the eyes
Individuals are typically infected with Zika virus when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes
The virus can be transmitted during pregnancy to the fetus, resulting in an incomplete development of the brain (microcephaly)
There is currently no known treatment for Zika Virus Fever. It is symptomatically treated to alleviate pain and other symptoms that may arise. However, the prognosis is generally good
Active research is being undertaken to establish suitable treatment protocols and vaccine for Zika Virus Fever
Who gets Zika Virus Fever?
Zika Virus Fever is an infectious disease affecting individuals in the tropical regions, including Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Pacific Islands
The condition affects both males and females
It also affects individuals of all races and ethnicities; no predilection for any particular race or ethnic group is noted
What are the Risk Factors for Zika Virus Fever?
Residing or visiting tropical areas; Zika virus is contracted through mosquito bites
Sexual intercourse with a Zika virus infected individual
Being born to a mother who is infected with the virus
It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.
Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.
Zika virus data courtesy of http://www.dovemed.com/