Spread of Zika Virus

Health Officials in Brazil confirmed the first two cases of Zika infection acquired from a blood transfusion in February 2016. In one instance an individual received blood from a transfusion earlier that same year. A series of genetic tests confirmed the man became infected with the virus although he did not develop any symptoms. The second case involved a man who received transfusions for a gunshot wound. Both men received transfusions well before the outbreak of the Zika virus which began in May 2016.

According to the Brazilian health minister, while the two cases can be considered transmission of the virus, the first case is supported through genetic sequencing which compares the virus in the donor with the virus in the person receiving the transfusion. Authorities in Brazil have reminded blood donors that those that have been infected with Zika should abstain from giving blood for 30 days after they have recovered from an infection.

The European Center for Disease Control & Prevention recommends that donors with a history of travelling to areas with active Zika transmission be given deferrals until it is considered safe for them to donate. The American Red Cross recommends that donors returning from Zika confirmed countries postpone donating blood for at least 28 days, while Canada recommends a 21 day deferral period for anyone who has traveled to a known Zika area.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is requesting $8.5 million from the global community to help research Zika. Officials at PAHO believe that all Countries, especially those in the Americas need to increase resources toward mosquito control and preparing health services to focus on education and awareness of the disease along with development of a vaccine.

On February 2nd, 2016 Dallas County Health & Human Services confirmed that two patients with confirmed cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus had recovered and had been advised to follow up with their primary care physicians. An investigation into both cases has been completed and included such measures as mosquito surveillance near the homes of both patients. According to the DCHHS, no evidence of mosquito vector activity has been found in either area. Officials have concluded that one patient became sick after travelling to an affected county and the second became symptomatic after sexual contact with the first patient.

The DCHHS recommends that Doctors consider Zika virus infection in patients that have not traveled to an affected area but had unprotected sex within a 2 week time frame with a person who’s travel history and symptoms fits the profile of the disease.

Extensive research is being undertaken by the government in the United Kingdom and a Japanese based pharmaceutical company to develop a vaccine for Zika. The UK Medical Research Council recently announced a fast-track Zika virus research program with an initial $1.45 million in grants. Several projects are set to collaborate with the countries most affected, including Brazil. Some of the research topics include host and immune system response, viral features, and epidemiology. Based on requests from international health experts, researchers in Japan are working towards developing a vaccine against Dengue virus in addition to working on a vaccine for Zika.