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Another Blood Transmitted Virus to Worry About!

We are all aware by now of the emergence of the ZIKA VIRUS and the horrific side effect of microcephaly in newborns of infected mothers. ZIKA VIRUS is a member of the flaviviridae family. These are single stranded RNA viruses and is the group of viruses which includes the yellow fever virus. The virus is transmitted by the day time activity of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is present in the southeastern United States as well as tropical and subtropical climates. It bites people and animals and can survive year round in tropical and subtropical climates. It can also be transmitted by sexual intercourse and the virus can survive in semen for an indeterminate length of time.

The virus was first identified in Uganda in the Zika forest in 1947. It has spread from east Africa across the Pacific from tropical French Polynesia and then to tropical America. Currently most cases are spread to the USA by travelers from endemic areas. However, because the vector is present in the southeastern USA, cases have begun to appear and will establish endemically in the southeast. Clinical symptomology is usually mild or asymptomatic; however the central nervous system has been involved in a small number of more severe cases and has led to Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The virus can cross the placental blood barrier and may lead to miscarriage and/or possible microcephaly in the newborn.

Public health authorities have brought to our attention numerous new viruses, urging us to take precautions and preventative measures to stay safe and healthy. Some of these include West Nile, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, and currently, Zika Virus. Zika is usually clinically mild except as otherwise described while Yellow Fever is deadly and has caused epidemics in the USA since before the time of the Revolution. In 1878, Memphis, TN had one of the worst epidemics recorded with 17,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths. Today we have an effective vaccine to prevent Yellow Fever.

West Nile Virus is usually clinically very mild in humans though neurological involvement with encephalitis has been reported; particularly in very young and older patients. Birds are an important host for West Nile Virus and as it has spread across the USA, this virus has reduced the number of certain bird species. 

Dengue Fever is also a mosquito born virus. The infection is usually asymptomatic but severe cases with fever, headache, muscle and joint pain have been reported. In a small percentage of cases, this can lead to circulatory collapse and even death. Chikungunya infection presents with fever, joint pain, and rash. It is usually mild, but deaths have been reported. 

All of these viruses are mosquito borne and eradication of the Aedes mosquito is the most important factor in preventing these particular blood borne viruses. With increasing international travel and degradation of the climate, these viruses are going to continue to be a problem.

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Another Blood Transmitted Virus to Worry About!