What The Heck Is This Zika Virus?

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Recently, the Zika virus pandemic has been causing a multitude of problems. Many news stories have reported on its spread, moving up from South America into Texas, Florida and other areas on the border. First,let’s dig into the science behind it:in the simplest form, the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus of the genus Flavivirus (family Flaviviridae) which causes Zika fever. Genus Flavivirus is a category of RNA Virus that causes human illness, examples being Yellow Fever, Dengue, and West Nile. Once one is bitten by a mosquito carrier of the Zika Virus, the Virus makes its way to the genome containing  a positive strand of RNA enclosed in a capsid and surrounded by a membrane. The envelope (E) glycoprotein, embedded in the membrane, allows attachment of the virus particle to the host cell receptor to initiate infection. This can be seen in the image below:



Envelope (E) glycoprotein allows the virus to attach, and initiate infection

Science aside, the reason why this is of importance is due to the symptoms it brings on. It can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization are uncommon, except when it comes pregnant women. The Zika Virus causes a disease called Guillain-Barré which causes the birth of babies with birth defects and overall poor pregnancy outcomes.

Currently, there is no cure for the Zika virus. Though mainstream media sources have stated a vaccine is coming soon, the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases predicted that it may take two years to develop a vaccine, but ten to twelve years may be needed before an effective Zika virus vaccine can be approved by regulators for public use. This disease’s effects on the victims are much like similar Virus within its Flavivirus family except for the fact the Zika virus RNA was detected in the amniotic fluid of two fetuses, indicating that it had crossed the placenta and could cause a mother-to-child infection. So when the fetus is developing inside the mother the disease is transmitted from mother-to-child and as the baby develops within the womb it is affected
by the virus (such as microephaly or  a shrunken head).




So if you’re planning on heading out to the Olympics this summer in Brazil or going on the Dominican Republic trip the safest way to make sure you don’t contract the Zika Virus is to buy yourself bug spray, a bug net, and pray to whatever you believe in that if a mosquito does bite you it isn’t a carrier.



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About the author

Liam Busconi is an 18 year old who resides in Hopkinton, MA, and is a member of the class of 2017 at St.Mark’s School in Southborough. He is planning on getting degrees in either Pre-Med or Business due to a current split of interest between entrepreneurship and doctorate. As an Eagle Scout, he enjoys being part of a larger community and helping others through charity work and with his church. His interests include golf, cross country and swimming. He is ready to see where life takes him and what he will discover along the way.

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