Whether you think Zika is hooey or not (here are some weird things about it that may lead you to the hooey side of the debate) it’s undeniable that loads of money and resources are being used to feverishly research the virus.
The World Health Organisation has updated its sexual guidance for people returning from areas where Zika is circulating. Hours later a research team at Washington University Medical School, St Louis discovered that Zika is present in the tears of infected victims.
This leads to the essential question: are the Zika victims crying because they’ve been told not to have sex for 6 months?
The New Zika Sex Rules
On the same day, the WHO has updated their advice on sexual practice after traveling to areas where Zika is prevalent.
The previous advice was that men who had been in areas where Zika was circulating should either abstain from sex or use a condom for eight weeks to avoid spreading Zika, which like Ebola, can be spread via bodily fluids. Unlike Ebola, Zika can also be spread by mosquitoes.
But now, the new guidance states that men and women returning from Zika-infested areas should either abstain or use condoms for at least six months.
So what about people who live in areas with Zika?
How exactly does the new rule work for them?
Does this mean we are to assume that those people living in those areas where Zika is endemic (or well on the way to becoming endemic) should make sure they never have children?
Well. That’s one way to stop the population from increasing.
According to the WHO, 11 countries have reported sexual transmission of Zika. It was this and the discovery that an Italian still had the virus present in his sperm six months after he was infected, that has prompted the move. 60 countries have reported the spread of Zika via mosquitoes.
There are suspicions about whether microcephaly is a direct result of pregnant women becoming infected with Zika, but more information is needed to prove or disprove the link conclusively.
There are a few indisputable facts about Zika.
- Zika is a flavivirus, it belongs to the same group of viruses that cause yellow fever, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya and dengue fever. (source)
- The Aedes species of mosquito are the main vector and are responsible for spreading zika.(source)
- This includes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus both are day-biting mosquitoes. A.egypti actually prefers humans to animals and has adapted exceptionally well to living in an urban environment and is the primary vector for zika virus. (source)
Map showing speed of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States: Courtesy CDC
- This virus can cause encephalitis in adults and this is sometimes life- threatening.(source)
- Zika has been detected in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women and has been proven to cross the placental barrier between mother and child.
- There are two strains of zika: The original strain found in Uganda is known as the African strain. The cases in South America are from the Asian strain. (source)
- The Asian strain first appeared in Africa in may 2016. (source)
- The Asian strain of the disease is implicated in causing microcephaly and other neurological conditions. The African strain is not. (source)
- Zika has the potential to become a pandemic though the chance of this is currently limited by the spread of A.egypti, notwithstanding a huge rise in other forms of transmission. (source)
- Zika can be spread via inoculation with infected blood and via blood transfusion. (source)
- Washington University Medical School, St Louis have found that Zika is transmitted through tears as well as blood and semen (source)
So Zika is spread by mosquitoes, blood, sexual intercourse and tears – it seems like almost any form of human contact, even comforting someone who is crying could put us at risk of contracting the virus.
As the Zikasteria rises exponentially with every new announcement, the next question is, will the official response harm more of us than the virus would have?
Looking for more information on pandemics and preparedness? Here are two excellent resources: