By Elle Carlos |Staff Writer|
The Zika virus outbreak, originating in Brazil, has spread to more
than 30 countries.
Meanwhile, scientists look to determine its connection to birth defects and a vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the potential link between the virus and neurological disorders, microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, can be confirmed within weeks.
Microcephaly is a birth defect that causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads and developmental issues. Guillain-Barre syndrome, is a neurological disorder that causes paralysis.
As stated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms for the virus include: fever, rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, and red eyes.
“It seems indeed that the link with Zika (and microcephaly) is becoming more and more probable, so I think that we need a few more weeks and a few more studies to have this straight,” stated Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, at a news briefing in Geneva.
The Brazil health ministry issued a report of 4,314 possible microcephaly cases in Brazil on Feb. 12.
Of those, 462 cases were confirmed and 41 showed traces of the Zika virus in the mother or child, according to Reuters.
More than 30,000 Zika virus cases were reported in Colombia, according to Reuters.
Of those cases, 5,000 were pregnant women.
In a week, the total reported cases of Zika infections increased by 23 percent and 57.8 percent for pregnant women, as reported by Reuters.
Scientists from the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Indian biotechnology firm, Bharat Biotech, are the leading candidates for developing a vaccine, according to Reuters.
The WHO reported that the vaccines would take a minimum of 18 months to begin clinical trials.
Reuters reported the NIH vaccine to be similar to the West Nile vaccine, while Bharat Biotech is scheduled to begin pre-clinical trials on animals.
Recently named Brazil’s most wanted criminal, the Aedes mosquito is known to carry the Zika Virus.
“It will sometimes bite four humans in one feeding, and therefore it spreads the disease quickly,” stated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Health and Human Services Secretary.
The virus resided in Africa and the Asia-Pacific, before making its way to Latin America in early 2015.
Blood transfusions and sexual transmission are also possibilities, although mosquito bites are the most common form of transmitting the Zika virus.
Earlier this month, a man in Dallas, Texas contracted the Zika virus after having sexual contact with his partner who recently returned from Venezuela.
“Now that we know Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, this increases our awareness campaign in educating the public about protecting themselves and others,” stated Zachary Thomson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, in a statement to the CDC.
People are encouraged to take precaution by practicing safe sex and that pregnant women should refrain from traveling to a region with a Zika outbreak.
Reuters reported two cases of Zika infections through blood transfusions in Brazil earlier this month.
American Red Cross has asked that anyone who has been to Latin America in the last 28 days not donate blood.
According to CBS News, Zika has been detected in saliva, breast milk and urine samples, although the CDC has not confirmed these as ways of transmission.