Zika Research and Vaccine

On February 8, 2016, President Obama asked Congress for 1.8 billion dollars to put towards Zika research and funding. Since this newsmaking outbreak, recent studies have brought new information about Zika to light, leading Americans to call for more research into the disease. The money Pres. Obama has called for is intended to fund Zika research, as little is known about how Zika is transmitted, as well as its long term effects. Zika had previously been considered extremely rare and non deleterious until an outbreak in 2007 brought it into the spotlight. Currently, Brazil and other South American countries have been reporting increasing numbers of Zika cases, in addition to new links between Zika and detrimental diseases and birth defects. While originally confined to Central and South America, Zika is now spreading to other countries.  

Zika was originally thought to be transmitted solely by mosquitoes, and was contained in Central and South America. However, cases soon began to spread to other parts of the world, including the United States. New research has shown that Zika can be transmitted sexually, as well as through urine and saliva. Scientists have been tracking cases in which men exposed to Zika transmitted it to their partners who had not left the United States, creating a link to sexual transmission. More pressing information is the rising link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes infants to be born with a shrunken head and slowed brain development. In Brazil, a country where the mosquitoes that can spread Zika are prevalent, there have been approximately 3,500 cases of microcephaly in 2015, whereas in 2014, there were only 147. Because so little is known about Zika, the only advice doctors can give to pregnant women is to stay away from countries where Zika is carried by mosquitoes. In addition to microcephaly, there are new reports of a link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological condition in which the immune system begins to attack the nerves, however, there is not enough evidence to confirm this.

The World Health Organization has declared Zika a public health emergency, calling countries to invest in Zika prevention and research in order to find out more about the biology of the virus and how it spreads. Although the US has risen to the call of the WHO, it could be over a decade before a vaccine is produced. While the $1.8 billion helps, vaccine research is a painstaking process that could take as long as 10 years. The US has vowed to work closely with Brazil, where the rates of infection are highest, but the process slow and there is much research to be done. The money from the US is a first step in a long path towards a much needed vaccine.

-Natalie Bachman, Staff Writer

Posted by on February 11, 2016. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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