Brazil was the first country to experience a Zika virus outbreak in 2015. Female Aedes aegypti mosquitos have been residents of Brazil for decades, and that pesky long-nosed bug has been giving Brazilians viruses like dengue and chikungunya for many years. When the first case of the Zika virus was reported in the Brazilian state of Paraiba in April 2015, doctors in the area were not familiar with what the virus does to humans, according to one of Brazil’s leading medical experts, Dr. Sergio Cortes. Dr. Cortes told online magazine R7.com that not much research was done on the Zika virus even though it has been around Africa for more than 68 years.
The virus according to the Noticias R7 article was first discovered in monkeys that lived in the Zika forest in Uganda. African researchers didn’t think the virus was dangerous. Africa is filled with disease carrying mosquitoes that cause life-threatening disease, and Zika didn’t appear to be one of those viruses that caused complications. But according to a post on the Dr. Cortes LinkedIn page, African researchers didn’t spend enough time connecting other diseases with the Zika virus.
But French researchers did, according to a post on Dr. Cortes Facebook page. The French have been studying the virus for four years, and they determined that Zika can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome in some infected people. Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disorder. People with Guillain-Barré syndrome experience an immune system attack on their peripheral nervous system. That attack leads to temporary paralysis and in some cases death.
Dr. Cortes tweeted a report published by Clinical Microbiology and Infection in October 2014. The report said that it was shortsighted to think that researchers have seen all the complications that the Zika virus can cause because scientists have only been studying the Zika for about four years. And that is true. Dr. Sergio Cortes thinks Zika is another cause of microcephaly in newborns. More than 745 confirmed cases of microcephaly have been reported in the Northeastern region of Brazil in less than a year. That’s the same region where the Zika virus appeared. Normally there are less than 200 cases of microcephaly in the entire country a year.
China recently confirmed its first case of the Zika virus. The man returned from South America, according to the official Chinese news agency. Chinese health authorities say the risk of the mosquito-borne virus spreading in China are low because of the climate. But mosquito transmission is not the only way that Zika is spreading. More human to human transmissions are being reported in Brazil as well as in the United States. Scientist think sexual contact does spread the disease. That could be one of the reasons the virus is spreading so quickly.