On August 3, 2016, the NIH posted that it has launched a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine intended to prevent the spread of Zika virus infection. The goal of this particular clinical trial is to evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and determine whether it can generate an immune response sufficient to prevent infection with Zika.
According to the CDC there are there are over 50 countries that have reported active Zika virus transmission. This includes the United States where there have been reported approximately 40 cases of Zika transmission in Miami-Dade, Florida, and one possible newly reported case in Pinellas County, Florida. There is also concern that the mosquito borne virus may propagate to Southern Louisiana and Southeastern Texas in the near future.
Zika virus is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus). These species of mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and live in various parts of the United States in addition to the tropics and sub-tropics around the world. Complicating the problem is that the Zika virus infection can also be sexually transmitted.
Many people infected by Zika virus never have symptoms or symptoms are mild and may include muscle or joint pain, fever, fatigue, headache, redness of the eyes and skin rash. Symptoms are usually self-limited and last a few days to a week. The problem with Zika virus arises in women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant and become infected, as Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
As no vaccine is currently available to prevent Zika virus infection, the CDC recommends standard mosquito prevention and avoidance measures. Men and Women who have travelled to a Zika area should consider getting tested for the infection or wait 8 weeks before trying to conceive. Women who had symptoms of Zika infection should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms began before trying to get pregnant while men with Zika infection should wait 6 months after symptoms began before trying to conceive. For full details regarding how to avoid the Zika virus check out https://www.cdc.gov/zika. Clearly if you think you’ve been infected you should contact your doctor for further advice.
While testing an experimental vaccine against Zika virus sounds promising there is no predictor as to what the outcome of this clinical trial will be at this point in time. Hopefully in the near future a vaccine will be available to prevent Zika virus infection but for now all we can do is wait and try to avoid getting bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito.
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