With new cases of Zika virus being diagnosed on a daily basis combined with so many unknown variables regarding the means of transmission, it is imperative that researchers develop an accurate method of testing. A new study indicates that blood testing alone missed approximately half of all recent Zika infections pushing scientists to develop more accurate means of testing. As a result, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recently changed its recommendations for testing for the virus. According to CDC officials, it is advisable for doctors to test both the urine and blood of patients who have experienced symptoms of the virus for less than two weeks.
A Recent study performed by the Florida Department of Health, concluded that 66 people who were suspected of having been infected with the Zika virus had both blood and urine samples tested on the same day. The virus was positively identified in the urine samples of 52 of the 55 patients who were screened within five days of first becoming symptomatic which is a promising 95%. However blood tested from the same individuals positively identified the virus in only 31 of the same 55 patients or an astonishing low 56%.
Even more encouraging is that the urine tests were able to detect the Zika virus for close to two weeks after the symptoms first become present, while blood testing on the other hand only detected the virus within the first week. New studies also indicate that saliva is more likely to show the virus than blood, especially in the early days of infection. In fact patients that were tested within the first two days of showing symptoms tested positive for Zika virus in saliva, while blood testing only detected two-thirds of the patients that were tested on the second day of symptoms.
While the Zika virus is primarily spread through an infected mosquito, documented cases show that the virus can also be sexually transmitted. To date the CDC has confirmed 10 cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the United States. Experts are also suggesting that sexual contact may not be the only possible mode of person to person infection. Researchers speculate that if the virus stays alive in saliva for days after the initial infection, it could mean that people can pass it to each other through coughing or kissing.
The Zika virus is spreading rapidly through South America and the Caribbean and is known to cause microcephaly in babies born to women who become infected during pregnancy. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with smaller than normal heads along with varying degrees of brain damage. The Zika virus has been linked to other health issues including Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system which causes changes in sensation or pain, followed by muscle weakness which typically begins in the hands and feet. Experts also believe that 4 out of 5 people that are infected with the Zika virus never show any symptoms.
There have been no known documented cases of local transmission in the United States but predicted forecasts have scientists braced for the worst. In fact many scientists believe that the worst is yet to come. Texas Heritage Protection is watching news of the Zika virus closely and researching ways to minimize mosquito populations.