The Zika virus (ZIKV) is one of the contagious diseases that has spread across international borders. Brazil and United States (US) were the main countries involved in this cross-boundary mobility. The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda’s Zika Forest in 1947 (Wright, 2016). In 2007, there were Zika incidents in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific island of Yap in Micronesia (Wright, 2016). Hence, this paper focuses on the 2015 Zika epidemic that occurred in Brazil and advanced to the US. Brazil’s authorities responded to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) request for clarification on the existence of possible infection cases in the northeastern state of Maranhao on February 1, 2015 (PAHO, n.d.). As of January 22, 2015, 45 instances of acute febrile fever had been confirmed in the municipality of Caxias (PAHO, n.d.). US noted the presence of local disease cases in Puerto Rico on December 30, 2015 (PAHO, n.d.). In November 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the pandemic spread from Brazil to other parts of South and North America.
Determinants of Epidemiology and Risk Factors
The Zika Virus (ZIKV) of the Flaviviridae family causes Zika Virus infection. According to the International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMATA), the disease is predominantly carried and spread by biting female Aedes mosquito vectors (IAMATA, 2020). Humidity, rainfall, temperature, and the mosquito’s life cycle were directly tied to climate-driven transmission in Brazil (Lourenço et al., 2017). The presence of standing water is a major epidemiological factor of Zika. Mosquitoes usually lay their eggs in stagnant water, including buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots, and vases that serve as insect nurseries.
The risk factors of ZIKV are influenced by occupation, age, the status of immunity, prior exposure, population (living in close proximities) and vaccination. ZIKV-related neurological problems increased with age, with the highest prevalence recorded in people aged 75 and up (Charniga et al., 2021). Brazil has an enormous population, which helped the virus to spread swiftly. Traveling to or living in areas with an outbreak also increases the chances of contracting Zika. During this period, migration between the South American countries was expected, with little screening at the borders. Unprotected intercourse with a partner who has visited or resided where the Zika virus is present is another risk factor for catching the infection.
Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), a potentially fatal autoimmune condition, can be caused by the ZIKV. Studies indicate that the likelihood of GBS is higher in men than in women, and it rises with age (Charniga et al., 2021). The immune system targets the nerves, causing muscle weakness and, in rare cases, complete paralysis. The virulence of ZIKV is low, and most people recover completely from the illness after being hospitalized, with only 5% of people dying (UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, 2016). Infection during pregnancy can cause congenital Zika syndrome characterized by microcephaly, eye abnormalities, deafness and growth deficiencies in babies.
The antigen stability of the ZIKV is still unknown, causing challenges in immunization. Herd immunity has been established, and a passive vaccine may be effective. However, the difficulties of developing a vaccine are exacerbated because women of childbearing age or pregnant are the significant target populations for using antibodies and vaccinations. Lourenço et al. (2017) argue that the balance between viral resurgence and herd-immunity loss will determine Zika’s future transmission rate in the urbanized areas. Travelers visiting Zika-affected places should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites throughout the day. There is presently no anti-Zika Virus treatment or vaccination available.
Route of Transmission
The ZIKV spreads via mosquito bites, pregnant women to their fetuses, blood transfusion and sexual contact. Rapid local transmission is attributed to Aedes infected vectors, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (IAMATA, 2020). Humidity and temperature were to blame for the 2015 Brazil outbreak because it sustained the mosquito population. Migration was the primary cause of the spread of ZIKV between Brazil and the US in 2015.
Community Impact of ZIKV
A ZIKV outbreak would have a wide-ranging impact on my town. Hospitals would be filled with individuals who have the virus and those who suspect they have been infected. As a result, the available staff will be overwhelmed, just like witnessed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pregnant women would be terrified, necessitating quick testing and counseling. The local government would need to help slow the spread of the virus and assist with problems connected with the ZIKV, such as Guillen Barre syndrome. Transmission from students to teachers, and vice versa, would have an impact on schools. ZIKV can cause difficulties due to abnormal mental development in younger children. Businesses would have to limit customers depending on rashes and temperatures, lowering profit margins. An increase in sick leave would impact various economic generating sectors like food stores, health clinics, public transportation and services.
Even though the residents would be concerned and affected, action is expected to be swift. Mosquito management would be a priority for county personnel in places with high humidity or standing water. Schools may ask children to stay indoors or wear long pants and sleeves to minimize mosquito bites. The health fraternity would recommend the use of insect repellent to kill the vectors. In addition, they would be on the lookout for possible Zika infections and report verified cases to the proper authorities. All medical facilities need to be taught how to recognize the virus’s signs and treat patients effectively.
The Protocol of Reporting
Healthcare practitioners in my community follow a reporting protocol that requires them to disclose all communicable diseases to the local health department. According to Minnesota State law, the infections are submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) (MDH, n.d.). The reports are usually made by filling an online form or making phone calls within 24 hours of diagnosis, treatment and detection of a case, suspected incidence, or an event. Every licensed health professional who cares for a patient who has, is suspected of having, or has succumbed to a reportable infection is obligated to report unless earlier indicated. In addition, administrators of learning institutions and child care centers are also required to notify MDH of any illness. Women infected during pregnancy must also be reported too because ZIKV poses risks to the fetus.
The first step in preventing an outbreak in my community would be to educate residents about the virus, including symptoms and transmission routes. People who understand the virus are less likely to expose themselves to high-risk locations. Moreover, they will seek early testing and treatment for symptoms. The second strategy for averting the spread would be to enlist the help of the local authorities in locating and removing stagnant water. Common breeding grounds for mosquitoes should be filled with sand or the water treated with insecticides to kill the larvae. The healthcare providers can also make public service announcements about routes, including sexual and mother to fetus transmissions. Individuals at risk can then be advised accordingly on delaying pregnancy, abstinence, or using a condom.
Charniga, K., Cucunubá, Z. M., Walteros, D. M., Mercado, M., Prieto, F., Ospina, M., Nouvellet, P., & Donnelly, C. A. (2021). Descriptive analysis of surveillance data for Zika virus disease and Zika virus-associated neurological complications in Colombia, 2015–2017. PLOS ONE, 16(6), 1-16. Web.
International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMATA). (2020). Brazil general health risks: Zika virus. Web.
Lourenço, J., Maia de Lima, M., Faria, N. R., Walker, A., Kraemer, M. U., Villabona-Arenas, C. J., Lambert, B., Marques de Cerqueira, E., Pybus, O. G., Alcantara, L. C., & Recker, M. (2017). Epidemiological and ecological determinants of Zika virus transmission in an urban setting. eLife, 6, 1-25. Web.
Minnesota Department of Health. (n.d.). Reporting Zika virus disease. Web.
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (n.d.). Timeline of emergence of Zika virus in the Americas. Web.
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. (2016). Can the Zika virus kill you? UPMC HealthBeat. Web.
Wright, C. (2016). Even in the place where Zika virus was first discovered, its true origin is a mystery. Quartz. Web.