The Zika Virus in Brazil

Posted: April 05, 2017

The Background and History of the Zika Virus

The Zika fever is also commonly referred to as the Zika virus that is named after the Zika forest in Uganda where scientists first isolated and noticed such symptoms in a monkey. (Boeuf, Drummer, Richards, Scoullar, & Beeson, 2016).  This was in 1948 when the researchers and the scientists as a whole were concerned about the spread of other riskier ailments such as yellow fever. Over the years, researchers have held that the Zika virus relies on a vector such as a mosquito that would transmit it from one person to the other (Heukelbach, Alencar, Kelvin, de Oliveira, & de Góes Cavalcanti, 2016). As such, it is safe to mention that a mosquito from an infected person to another has realistic chances of transmitting the virus and disease from one person to the next.

Historically, the scientific world treated and handled the prevalence of the Zika Virus as a tropical situation owing to the fact that the highest rates of infections were recorded in Africa and other tropical regions or zones. Records show that the first human contact or infection of the Zika virus was recorded in 1952 in a ten-year-old female in Nigeria. This was because the patient had shown signs of jaundice, headaches, and fever all which tested negative for the assumed Malaria (Boeuf, et al., 2016). However, the patient recovered within three days and developed some form of immunity against the infection after that. This was after it was discovered that her serum had antibodies that protected her from subsequent infections of the same Zika virus.

In the subsequent years, other African equatorial countries and parts of Asia also recorded cases of the infection in human beings. It is imperative to mention that due to human interaction and other transportation factors, in 2007 cases and instances of infections were reported in Micronesia and the Americas in extension. The stem of infections rose to unprecedented heights in the early 2016 specifically in Brazil and other regions of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean’s and South America. A report issued by the World Health Organization postulated that the Zika virus is most likely to spread to other parts of the Americas by the close of the year (Boeuf, et al., 2016).

A critical focus and interest have been Brazil that is set to host the Olympics. Thus, it has caused panic and fear on the safety of the athletes in the country as whether or not they stand any mathematical chance of contracting the virus (Kahan, Jamieson, Landrum, & Winneg, 2016). Instinctively, the expectant mothers who would travel as tourists to the games have been greatly discouraged because of the adverse effects that it may occasion to the unborn babies. In principle, an infected mother may bear a child with physiological and physical deformities. In brief, researchers have advanced that the number of foreigners who may be affected by the Zika virus in Brazil is extremely low or negligible implying that the fear of a widespread infection may be unfounded or unrealistic.

Transmission Mechanisms

Scientists and virologists are certain and clear on some of the most likely forms and aspects of transmission from the Zika virus from one person to the next. To begin with, mosquito bites from an infected person to another who is not infected is a sure way of transmission. This has been confirmed in the areas that have increased in the areas that have tropical mosquitoes. As such, when they bite one person who has the Zika virus, it would leave and place another person who is not infected at great risks of contracting the virus. Another likely way of transmitting the virus is when an expectant or pregnant woman passes it to her unborn child or fetus (Kahan, Jamieson, Landrum & Winneg, 2016). This is because there is a clear channel of passing fluids and other nutrients from the mother to the child. In the end, such transmissions are most likely to affect the physiological and physical makeup of the fetus that might forthwith cause deformities to the young child. In the end, such a transmission is most likely to affect the physical welfare and wellbeing of the child.

Similarly, sexual intercourse between an infected person and another uninfected person may lead to passing and transmission of the virus or infection. In the conventional sense, sexual intercourse and contact is a way through which body fluids pass from one person to the other. It is important to note that such body fluids encompass serum that is a perfect transmission mechanism that permeates the transfer or transmission of the virus from one person to another (Kahan et al., 2016).  Further, there have been speculation and thoughts that blood transfusion is another prospective mechanism or way of transmission. However, it has not been independently confirmed by medical organizations (Sikka, Chattu, Popli, Galwankar, Kelkar, Sawicki & Papadimos, 2016). But, just the fluid nature of blood and the elements that it contains are likely to harbor the virus and lead to its transmission from. In principle, any sharing or transfer of body fluids must be meticulously studies and screened to ensure or rule out any prospects of infections or contamination with the Zika virus.

Some of the Likely Symptoms of the Zika Virus

Most affected people may not exhibit any outrageous or loud symptoms to the effect that they might have the Zika virus while others may show signs that are mild. Intuitively, there are elements and signs that form the irreducible minimum that would inform a medical practitioner as to whether or not one has the Zika virus. Expressly, fever and rash are some of the common symptoms of the ailment. It is to say that when a person experiences persistent fever and has body rashes, then it might be a consideration and belief that the person has the diseases. Also, pain in the joints is another consideration to be considered while diagnosing the Zika virus. Another implicit symptom is conjunctivitis that clinically refers to a situation where a person has red eyes. Headaches and muscle pain are other likely symptoms that might inform a person to conclude that one has the virus or disease (Heukelbach et al., 2016). It is important to note and mention that all these symptoms should not be isolated as the basis of diagnosing a person with the Zika virus. Instead, when a person shows three to four similar conditions or symptoms would the person be considered as been positive to the Zika virus. Theoretically, it would be imperative to gauge the symptoms and tally them together to confirm that a person has the Zika virus in an absolute fashion (Boeuf, et al., 2016).

Health Risks Associated with the Zika Virus

It is critical to infer that the veracity and extent of the damage, threat or effects of the Zika virus vary from one case to the next. However, some of the prospective risks that have so far been associated with the prevalence and infection of the Zika virus includes birth deformities or defects to the newborns whose mothers had the virus. Some of the likely deformities may be mental, physiological or physical. For instance, there are incidences where children have been born with brain defects, visual impairments, hearing defects and stunted growth (Fauci & Morens, 2016). It is to say that the cognitive awareness and acuity of the children would also be relatively less and slow as compared to the standard level that is conventionally expected of healthy humans. Reports have also been reported and published where people experience uncommon ailments that affect the nervous system of the infected person. This rare disease is called the Guillain-Barre syndrome. As such, it may be proportional to relate the prevalence rates of Zika virus to the prospective increase in the rates of Guillan Barre syndrome that is a nervous illness affecting the mobility and general comfort levels of the patient (Heukelbach et al., 2016).

Preventive Mechanisms and Modalities

There are no express medically known methods to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. However, there are proactive measures and approaches that might be taken to ensure that the spread of the Zika virus is contained and prevented. However, studies and records have suggested that there are some measures that could be taken to ensure that the spread of the infection is minimized and controlled. To begin with, people who travel to Zika virus prone areas are advised to wear heavy clothing such as long pants and long sleeves. Additionally, it is beneficial to treat clothes with permethrin so as to kill all likely breeding grounds for the mosquitoes (Boeuf, et al., 2016). Also, it would be critical to use pre-treated clothing.

Another essential component is to use insect repellents to discourage the scourge of the insects sticking on the clothes of a person. It is also advised to ensure that the insect repellants are certified as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is to ensure that that the repellants do not pollute or affect the serenity of the environment. It is advisable to ensure that the repellants are not used near young children due to the sensitivity of their skins. While at their homes, people should stay in aerated places that have proper air conditioning with windows and doors screened to lock away mosquitoes. Accordingly, mosquito nets are necessary to ensure that there is no realistic chance of contact between the mosquitoes and the people at night. Lastly, it is of utmost importance to control the transfer of body fluids during sexual intercourse using condoms and other contraceptives or preventive mechanisms (Heukelbach et al., 2016). Alternatively, sexual abstinence is another measure or approach that could be taken to ensure that people avoid the prevention of the Zika virus.

The Zika Virus in Brazil

Brazil being the designated host of the global competition Olympics has come under criticism and skepticism regarding its health preparedness and awareness against the Zika virus. It is to say that observers, athletes, health officials and prospective tourists have raised concerns about the safety standards that Brazil as a country has put in place to curb the surge and prevalence of the Zika virus (Kahan et al., 2016). This argument and logic stem from the fact that in the recent past, there have been reports that the virus has infected most parts of the Americas that include Brazil. In all aspects and fairness, Brazil is an emerging democracy whose public health system is not comprehensively superb or developed to tackle emerging diseases. In other words, the public fears are based on the fact that the economic situation of Brazil and its health sector by extension have struggled and are riddled by lack of sufficient resource capacity to address any emerging diseases (Boeuf, et al., 2016).

Theoretically, the health sector of Brazil relies on the intervention and assistance of the global agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control in America to human resource support and material boost. Thus, the prospects or threat that the Zika virus could be prevalent in Brazil is a sufficient basis for observers, athletes and researchers to question the level of preparedness to handle any prospective eventuality that might come from the virus.  As such, the worries have been pegged on the level of preparedness regarding the resource aspect to handle any prospective outbreak of the Zika virus by the Brazilian government and health systems (Heukelbach et al., 2016).

Instinctively, a large proportion of the foreigners has digressed their plans to visit the country due to the reports to the effect that the virus is on the loose in Brazil, including the likes of Tiger Woods (the Golf Master). When reputable athletes pullout of the competition or threaten to abscond their participation smacks of moral defeat on the part of the country’s health system and aptness. In brief, the debate of the Zika virus in Brazil has taken other dimensions that have all painted the country in the bad light not regarding its medical capacity to deal with any eventual public health risk but whether their standards tally with the conventional practices prescribed for such illnesses.

Risks for Having the Rio Olympics despite the Zika Virus Outbreak

The risks for hosting the Olympics in Rio have not only assumed health dimensions, but also the geopolitical and economic dynamics are equal merits and standards of measure that should be considered. The health risks include the threats of a global or increased infection rate of the virus because most of the people who would converge at the Olympics in Rio would come from various places. It means that there are probable chances that when athletes, their coaches, journalists and other people interact in places such as the Olympics village and an outbreak or big scale infection occurs, the health ramification would be exponential. It implies that the foreigners would carry the infections to their home nations and continue the wave of infections in their countries (Heukelbach et al., 2016). In all fairness, the cost of treating the Zika infection in one country is lesser than treating it on a global scale. In brief, the health risks would balance with the economic effects that would be incurred on a global scale based on the argument articulated above herein (Boeuf, et al., 2016). In principle, there is a likely chance that the people in Rio may contract the virus and transport it to their home nations hence increasing the global costs of addressing the epidemic that would arise after that.

Geopolitically, there are situations that may be arrived at in the wake of the likelihood of the Zika virus. In the ordinary sense, all countries must take proactive measures to protect their citizens against foreign or internal threats that might include health risks. If it is proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the threats of the Zika virus are real and high as postulated by the researchers, other countries may resort to extreme measures to protect their populations. For instance, they may ban all travels to or from Brazil, and that might affect their attendance and participation in the games. Also, most nations may limit their actual physical contact including trade with Brazil until it is further proved that Brazil is safe and free from the virus.

Theoretically, when countries take such measures, it would not only be a moral and economic setback to the profitable prospects that Olympic promises but also bring a tide of political strain. In essence, it would feel as if Brazil would have been declared a pariah state and isolated from the global association. A real incident is the Ebola crisis that hit Africa and saw many countries ban or limit their contact with the affected nations as a proactive preventive measure taken to prevent against stopping transnational infections (Heukelbach et al., 2016).

Instinctively, if the Olympics proceed in Brazil, and the effects of the Zika virus become adverse, it may affect the future chances of any country in the Americas from hosting any major global sporting function or tournament. It is because the world would draw parallels and compare the situation in Brazil as a basis to dismiss any chance of the neighboring countries from hosting any major event. It is because the neighboring countries share similar climatic, economic and health conditions to Brazil thereby implying that the failures experienced in Brazil are likely to extend to those neighboring nations. Sequentially, this argument implies that the risk of the Zika virus affecting Brazil as an individual nation would be cross-nationally borne by its neighbors and the Americas as a whole. Implicitly, the risks and any eventuality that would be witnessed in Brazil would be extrapolated to include the wider Americas (Kahan et al., 2016).

Why Rio is Safe to Host the Olympics despite the Zika Virus Risks and Health Concerns

Some of the most reputable global health agencies such World Health Organization and the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) have given the green light and assured the world about the safety standards of Rio de Janeiro. This is because they have partnered with the government officials to increase the intensity on reducing mosquitoes that are the primary vectors for the Zika virus (Heukelbach, Alencar, Kelvin, de Oliveira & Cavalcanti, 2016). This stems from the fact these bodies have conducted proper research on the prevalence of the virus and the likelihood of the spread reaching endemic levels. In their findings, these agencies have responded in the negative affirmative implying that the prospects of the infections are negligible and as such the health awareness and preparedness against the Zika virus at the Rio games are apt.

Specifically, WHO and CDC have embarked on an awareness campaign to ensure that the Brazilian healthcare workers are enlightened to identify the Zika virus, test the samples and to educate the general public on the dynamics of the disease. These measures are concurrently done to ensure that the reported cases are isolated and set for treatment while preventive measures are instituted to correct any loopholes in the public health department (Heukelbach et al., 2016).

Similarly, Brazil has already incurred a huge budget towards the preparation of the games, and it would be a political and economic disaster to abort the mission at this last stages. The political situation has been aggressive due to corruption, inflated cost of building the Olympic facilities against the struggling economy. Thus, calling off the games would spell political doom for the already strained government. As such, it is a show of political perseverance and resilience on the part of the Brazilian people to proceed with the games. It is to say that preparations have incurred a huge economic and political capital that would run to waste if a contrary decision to stop the games is to be taken.

Conclusion

The Zika virus is a real health concern that has bedeviled the Americas and Brazil by extension being the host nation for the Olympics. Give the global nature of the Olympics; it would be catastrophic if an outrageous virus such as the Zika were to spread to the many foreigners who are set to visit Rio. In light of all the concerns and fears, the most reputable and authoritative medical research agencies such as CDC and WHO have ruled out any real threat that may be occasioned from the Zika virus. In its place, they have embarked on a raft of educative and preventive measures to ensure that the Brazilian health providers are versed with the dynamics of the Zika virus. Similarly, the country has invested a lot of political and economic capital that would be wasted if the Olympic Games were to be called off. For instance, the prospects of advertising Rio as a tourist destination and the profits that Brazil would earn from the Olympics cannot be negated on the premise of cautionary health measure rather than an actual threat verified by medical agencies such as CDC and WHO.

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