The ZIKA Virus – What we know


What do we know about the Zika virus? The Zika virus was first detected in monkeys
in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947. It was initially considered benign as infection
in humans was rare and only appeared to cause a mild rash and fever. During outbreaks in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific
Islands, health officials began to see a link to certain neurological conditions in human
patients. By 2015, the disease had spread throughout
Asia and South America, and is now linked to cases of infant microencephaly. Children born with microencephaly have a much
smaller brain and head and may experience severe mental retardation, seizures and even
death. Scientists believe the virus targets a particular
protein called AXL, which is prevalent on the surface of neural stem cells. The virus kills these cells as well as radial
glia, which help developing neurons migrate to the outer layers of the brain. About 1 in 5 people who become infected show
symptoms, and the virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites, blood transfusions,
sexual contact, or from mothers to their fetuses. Health officials are urging residents and
travelers in Zika-prone areas to take special precautions. Because the best protection against the spread
of a virus is the spread of information.