Ramblings of an old Doc
Published on February 28, 2016 By DrJBHL In Everything Else

 

Not seeing a whole lot reportable in tech at the moment, so…Zika! Don't panic. Please. When I was in Jump School, there was a sign at the gate of the training instruments which read, "Knowledge prevents fear." My response was unprintable, and in a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.

This is the Zika virus…it’s an RNA virus which doesn’t specifically target any tissue (like brain in developing fetuses), but which is an equal opportunity infection. It isn’t passed only by the Aedes  mosquito (which can be the vector of other goodies like Yellow Fever), but which can be passed in body fluids (blood, etc.), not just sexually, but also those fluids too. It’s been around for 68 years (discovered in 1947). You can read more here.

I figure people want to know a bit about this new bit wonderfulness. Well, we used to think that the Zika virus was a ‘meh’…until, for some reason (as yet unknown, unproven and being researched) there was an outbreak of Zika infection in South America (and other cases in the Caribbean, Australia and USA).

So, say you’ve been bitten by an infected mosquito. Zika infection symptoms are pretty much those of any virus: Headache, red eyes, fever, joint pains and rash. You might have any combination or, no symptoms. About one in five develop symptoms. They can be quite severe and resemble Dengue and Chikungunya (also spread by Aedes). Symptoms last 5-7 days and are usually mild.

Rarely, a person might develop Guillian-Barre syndrome as a result. You can read about that here, if you wish.

Then there’s the effect on pregnant women, or more exactly, fetuses. Zika doesn’t just cause microcephaly (a small head, in this case a small brain). It can cause a host of other problems depending on the areas affected.

Zika isn’t the omly virus, or infection which can cause birth defects. Gestation (fetal development) is a vulnerable time since to tolerate pregnancy, the mother’s immune response is suppressed. Here’s a partial list:

““CHEAP TORCHES” is an acronym for a special group of infections that can affect the developing baby during pregnancy. CHEAP TORCHES stands for the following:

C: Chickenpox and shingles
H: Hepatitis B, C, D, E
E: Enteroviruses, a group of viruses including poliovirus
A: AIDS
P: Parvovirus B19, also known as fifth disease

T: Toxoplasmosis
O: Other infections such as group B streptococcus, listeria, candida
R: Rubella
C: Cytomegalovirus
H: Herpes simplex virus​
E: Everything else sexually transmitted such as gonorrhea and chlamydia
S: Syphilis

Hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, and syphilis are sexually transmitted diseases. The chickenpox virus is a risk to women who have not already had chickenpox, or who have not been properly vaccinated against that disease.

CHEAP TORCHES infections are a common cause of birth defects such as mental retardation, learning problems, jaundice, anemia, low birth weight, vision problems, deafness, heart defects, and skin rash. CHEAP TORCHES infections may also cause stillbirth. Babies are most severely affected by CHEAP TORCHES infections during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the major organs and structures are developing.” – AboutKidsHealth

 

So….what should one do? Common sense things:

1. If you’re a male and you’re planning travel in epidemic infection areas, well…get some “Off”. Use it liberally. Try to stay indoors at night. Have a mosquito net with you. If you get sick, see your Doctor and give your travel history! If you’re single and not in a relationship, ok. If you’re in a relationship, and not sick, don’t worry needlessly. If you get sick and you’re in a relationship and/or your mate is trying to get pregnant? Put it off. Get tested by your Doctor. Use latex, but that isn’t fool proof (kissing). Best to abstain. Really. Same is true if your partner traveled to one of those areas (see below). If you’re in a relationship and your partner is immune compromised, talk to your Doctor.

2. If you’re a female and not pregnant nor planning to become pregnant, make sure you’re using effective birth control and employ the same methods as the male (netting, Off, etc.) If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant? Don’t travel to those areas. Period. Also, use latex (not fool proof) if your partner traveled there.

3. If you’re a female and develop symptoms? GO TO YOUR DOCTOR. Get tested (including a pregnancy test). Go from there.

As for treatment?

Nothing specific. No anti-viral, etc. Usual treatment for having a virus: Fluids, bed rest, limit your contact with others, Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for fever, aches and pains: Follow the bottle warnings and recommended dosages.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html

Other sources linked above.


Comments
on Feb 28, 2016

Zika is spreading here in Texas.

on Feb 28, 2016

  good read, thanks Doc!

on Feb 28, 2016

The correlation with microcephaly is rather weak when you drill down the Brazilian numbers.  Something to be concerned about, but not necessarily a reason to rush to develop a new vaccine.  Sadly, emotionally-based sensationalism affects almost everything these days.

on Feb 28, 2016

Daiwa, a rather small sample, but...

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cdc-confirms-9-u-s-pregnancies-zika-investigates-10-more-n526726

It also doesn't reflect actual rates of infection, and rates of birth defects as well as the fact that yes, there's a good deal of "News cycle-itis" and hysteria around it, as well as climate change stuff associated, but it certainly merits further work now before it becomes more widespread, and more work related to the Virology.

Certainly the emotional hue is understandable as it involves pregnancies and tragedies.

 

on Mar 06, 2016

As always, Doc, great clarification of things medical.    Thank you.

on Mar 15, 2016

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