Infectious Diseases / Outbreak Watch

Zika Virus Hits Brazil

A case of Zika virus infection, caused by a virus which is a member of the flaviviridae family, has been reported from Brazil, making it the first reported case of Zika virus from the country this year. There are parts of Brazil in which dengue and chikungunya outbreaks have been (or are currently) underway. Considering the fact that Zika virus, like dengue and chikungunya, are vector borne infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes, the fear is that the disease might eventually become well settled in the nation or in South America as a whole. The favorable climate, with the added factor of increased vector density and poor social-economic-political commitment to fighting the disease, bodes ill for the control and prevention of these vector borne viral diseases.

In addition, some reports are stating that with the concurrent rise in the number of Zika, dengue and chikungunya cases, there is also a major spurt in the number of cases of Guillian Barre Syndrome. Although this maybe best stated to be an association and does not imply causation, the concurrent rise in the numbers does warrant a closer examination of the situation.

One of the major hurdles in the prevention and control of Zika virus disease remains the absence of a reliable and affordable diagnostic test for the disease, especially one that can be deployed in the field. In the absence of such a test, the process of identifying cases and initiating epidemiologic and clinical control of the disease becomes difficult.

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