When the Zika virus was identified in the underdeveloped regions of Uganda in the 1940s, the outbreak was small and uneventful. It was so uneventful that very little research was done on the Zika virus. Even when the virus spread to Asia there were only 14 confirmed cases of the virus, and a small boxful of research papers that didn’t identify what the virus does in the human body or how long it can stay there, according to Brazil’s top medical expert, Sergio Cortes.
Dr. Cortes has become somewhat of an expert on the Zika virus over the last nine months thanks to the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus in the Northeastern region of his country. The Zika virus is now infecting millions of people in Brazil, and Cortes writes about the country’s attempt to contain the outbreak on his website. Other countries in Latin America are also reporting an outbreak.
Most viruses like to mutate as they jump from host to host, but those mutations are not radical enough to cause other diseases like the disease that Zika has been accused of creating, according to Dr. Cortes. The old Zika virus that worked its way through Africa, Asia and other parts of the world was only transmitted by mosquito bites. But Cortes said the Brazilian Zika may be able to spread through sexual contact as well as through saliva since the virus has been detected in the urine, semen and saliva of infected people.
The other issue that may confirm a mutation is the sudden increase in microcephaly cases in the same region as the Zika outbreak. There were about 200 cases of microcephaly reported a year before 2015, but that number has grown to more than four thousand since the Zika virus arrived in Brazil.
In order to confirm the virus is a mutated version of the Afrasian virus researchers need to examine many sequences of the virus, and Zika research is so new there’s not enough credible information to make a determination. Dr. Cortes has more information about Zika and how it reacts in humans on his LinkedIn page.
Facebook users can read comments about the Zika virus on the Dr. Cortes page. And Twitter users will find Dr. Cortes there as well.