It was the first time anyone has contracted Zika from a mosquito in the continental United States, which is close to the epicenter of the virus’s transmission, says K. Austin Jones, a public health researcher at Washington State University who is not connected to the CDC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was working to determine the risk to pregnant women and their babies, said Mary Kay Henry, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The CDC and CDC’s Tropical Medicine Institute are testing volunteers from San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, and Denver who have traveled outside the continental United States. A spokesperson says the organization hopes to have full testing results from volunteers by Thursday. The research center is going to make a “strong statement that no research will take place in our labs unless the participants are prepared to go out and help us prevent future cases,” said Dr. Barbara Loe Fisher, director of the center. In an editorial this week in the New York Times, the British and Australian health agencies warn that Zika virus, a disease of rare occurrence in the West, is spreading to Europe and North America and could cause the loss of life, especially for pregnant women, from birth defects and miscarriages.
A study co-authored in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found the Zika virus caused a small death in India in 2012. Two separate infections of the virus are to blame, according to the researchers, but a third could be causing miscarriages in human beings. “Zika has now moved into the Americas and is highly likely to be the cause of the dramatic epidemic of congenital microcephaly in Brazil,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the CDC, said in an email. “This is not a coincidence. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, Zika is now part of the virus ecology in both the Americas and Asia.” A Zika outbreak in Brazil sparked the country’s worst outbreak of microcephaly in 2016 when more than 5,300 babies were born with baby-brain defects.
The virus also causes other types of birth defects, such as microcephaly, or brain defects that result in a small skull. An epidemic of microcephaly has been linked to the ongoing economic unrest that has plagued the region of Brazil that’s worst affected by Zika. An outbreak of Zika-linked microcephaly began in Brazil in March and has spread globally, with a few cases reported in Texas and New York. One case in the U.K. was confirmed last week, according to the British newspaper The Times . Brazil has released its first case studies of Zika and found it was similar to a rare form of a rare tropical illness that is endemic in the regiondengue. (And in the 1980s, Dengue showed up in the United States.) The virus, which was first discovered in French Polynesia in 1947, is passed through Zika-infected blood, semen, and vaginal secretions, or mosquito bites. In the U.S. and Canada, Zika is mostly a mosquito problem. The virus usually goes unnoticed in the U.S., where the virus is spread primarily by mosquitoes. In Brazil, it was only recently discovered. “We never thought there would be a global epidemic,” said Fauci. Brazil has the capacity to detect every mosquito bite. But so far the outbreak, which is just now beginning, has not been detected at beaches. The mosquito that transmits Zikacalled Aedes albopictusis not native to Africa. In a new paper , published yesterday in the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Implant Science , Fauci and his co-authors suggest the virus has no natural host in the U.S., which is unique. “Zika is not a tropical or an arbovirus, for example,” Fauci said in an interview with the Washington Post. “The mosquitoes that transmit it are not in their natural habitat within this [U.S.] area.”
It’s no wonder the CDC is being asked to investigate the Zika epidemic. Zika isn’t a new virus, and yet, it is causing widespread damage, and the CDC and CDC’s Tropical Medicine Institute have said they will test all volunteers to figure out whether it is the mosquito that is the problem, or whether it is an immune-suppressing virus. “We don’t know if this is due to the mosquito, the animal or some other factor,” said Fauci. The main target of mosquito control is not the mosquito itself but what is done to control the mosquitos–soaps, insect repellants, and, eventually, insecticide repellent sprays.