The Unstoppable Zika Virus

The Zika virus continues to rack up new victims in the United States as the CDC reports more than 500 cases it is monitoring, including nearly 300 pregnant women thought to have the disease, determined by actual lab tests.

The increasing number of cases is not because the disease is spreading by mosquitoes in the United States. So far, no one the CDC is monitoring in the United States and its territories got the disease from a mosquito in the U.S. All cases are thought to have been acquired by travel or by having intercourse with a man carrying the disease. The increase in cases is because of intense attention to looking for and diagnosing the disease.

Each Thursday, the agency updates the number of pregnant women it knows about with the disease. There are numerous good reasons to think the disease can cause microcephaly in infants as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome in anyone.

Guillain-Barré is potentially as consequential, if not more so, as an outcome of the Zika virus, although neither microcephaly nor Guillain-Barré has been proven as yet to be caused by the virus. The CDC has declared a causal relationship between the virus and brain diseases like microcephaly, and justifies its conclusion partly because of “the absence of an alternative explanation.”

Guillain-Barré causes sudden onset of paralysis and can be life-threatening because victims may lose the ability to breathe. It typically comes on following an infection, but is rare, affecting about one in 100,000 people annually. People with the Zika virus seem to have an increased chance of succumbing to the syndrome.

The Zika virus is still a mystery in many ways. No one as yet has a good test for it, because dengue fever and yellow fever can trigger an antibody test for it. A PCR test (real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction) is available, but only certain high-precision testing labs can perform it. In addition, the blood serum must be collected within three days of onset of the symptoms (urine for PCR testing can be used up to 14 days after onset of symptoms), and the CDC isn’t promising anyone will get test results back in less than three weeks.

The Zika virus is still a mystery in many ways.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of people who get the virus don’t even know they have it because they will have no symptoms. Those that do, the CDC says, will experience mild fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain or headache. No one is sure what the incubation period of the virus is, but the CDC is guessing it’s a few days to a week.

You can get a list of countries the CDC suggests you avoid if you are pregnant here.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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