Jan 12, 2016 02:33 AM EST
Few years ago, virologists have been expressing their concern over the Zika virus. No one seems to listen until its first case in the United States has been confirmed.
The first patient detected is from Harris County, Texas, who has just returned from a recent trip in Latin America. The patient has reportedly manifested Zika virus' common symptoms including fever, joint pain and rash.
In Puerto Rico, a growing concern over the virus has been reported for months, including Brazil and Colombia. Zika is a virus spread and contracted from mosquito bites. Although it is not detrimental and patients will soon recover fully, its main concern is over the birth defects and neurological issues it could possibly cause. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the signs and symptoms of Zika virus are usually mild but can last from several days to a week, while severe cases of the disease less likely need hospitalization.
Meanwhile, Brazil is currently studying the possible association between Zika virus and infection in pregnant women, which reportedly can cause congenital anomalies. Health experts suspect that such link is possible because the skyrocketing cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (disorder where the immune system targets the peripheral nervous system) and microcephaly (a condition where the head circumference is smaller than normal) coincide with the Zina outbreak. For instance, in Brazil alone, microcephaly cases shoot up from 150 in 2014 to 2,700 in 2015. But they said it is too early to determine its causal relationship.
With the first case having been reported, officials cited no immediate threat for an outbreak especially with the winter season. The aedes moquitoes, which are carriers of the Zika virus, mostly bite at daytime and breed on stagnant water that is near humans.
As of now, there are no existing vaccinations or treatments available to combat the virus. Health officials, however, highly encourage travellers going to Latin America and the Caribbean to take the necessary precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, such as applying insect repellant and covering bare skin with long sleeves and trousers. They also suggest pregnant women to consider postponing their trips.