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Zika Virus Epidemic

March 04, 2016
The first cases of Zika Virus have just been confirmed in the U.S., including one in Philadelphia. How does this disease travel? What is being done by policymakers to stop the virus’s spread? These, and other questions are answered here by Wonk Tank’s Health, Education, and Welfare team.

Background

Zika virus disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.[1] There also are a few confirmed cases where the disease was spread through sexual contact.[2] This virus is not dangerous for men or women who are not pregnant- symptoms include joint pain, fever, a rash, and conjunctivitis. There is not anything a doctor can do for someone who isn’t pregnant who contracts Zika virus disease, and the general recommendation is to stay home, drink fluids, rest, and avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes (which would further spread the disease). The disease usually lasts about a week, and one infection usually protects a person from future infections.[3]

In pregnant women, Zika virus disease has been linked to some serious birth defects, including microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth defect where an infant is born with an unusually small head and (usually) underdeveloped brain functioning. This can cause problems ranging from hearing loss to intellectual disability. While the link has not been determined to be causal yet, the correlation between Zika virus disease and birth defects is significant enough that it is considered a risk for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. In order for birth defects to be a serious concern, the woman must have contracted Zika while pregnant- infection prior to the pregnancy has a very low chance of affecting the child. Zika virus disease may also cause miscarriages.[4]

How The Zika Virus Spreads<br/>Source: Vox

Source: Vox

Zika virus disease affects about 1 in 5 people who are exposed to Zika virus. Zika virus is also difficult to diagnose, since its symptoms are very similar to those of a few other diseases caused by bites from the same type of mosquitoes.[5] No vaccine exists for the prevention of Zika virus disease,[6] but by staying away from mosquito breeding grounds and preventing mosquito bites however possible, the virus’s spread can be limited.[7] If you suspect that you might have Zika virus disease, a doctor can run specialized blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.[8]

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda, and was named after the Zika forest in Uganda. The first human cases of Zika virus disease were confirmed in 1952. Since then, outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. At least 14 cases were confirmed prior to 2007, and there were likely many more that were simply undiagnosed.[9]

The Current Epidemic

On February 1st, 2016, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency.[10] This announcement came as Zika spread through Latin America and the Caribbean, among suspicions–now shared by the WHO–that the disease was linked to microcephaly. Although Zika was first isolated by Ugandan researchers in 1947, the virus did not garner widespread attention until an outbreak occurred in May 2015 in Brazil.11 Before the Brazilian outbreak, the virus had never been associated with birth defects; compared to other diseases that ravaged the same areas, like dengue, its impact was mild. Now, researchers are scrambling to study previous outbreaks in order to determine whether or not the connection is causal. A retrospective investigation into a 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia found an alarming number of birth defects, but for now, public health officials remain hesitant to establish any linkage.12 Currently, teams of health workers led by agents from the United States Center for Disease Control are searching Brazil for mothers to enroll in a study that could determine whether or not the Zika virus is truly causing birth defects. In order to do so, they will extensively study both babies born with microcephaly and babies born without the condition, along with their mothers, to rigorously assess all factors that could be the source of the problem.13

 

Countries with Confirmed Zika Cases <br/>Source: dailystar.co.uk

Source: dailystar.co.uk

The WHO has also refrained from imposing travel restrictions, although it warns pregnant women against traveling to areas affected by the disease.14 The organization’s reluctance to restrict travel may be, in part, political; Brazil will host the 2016 Olympics, and a decrease in tourism could have troubling consequences for the country’s economy.15 Scientists in America worry about the long-term spread of the virus. The primary vector of Zika virus is the aedes aegypti mosquito, which is concentrated in the southern United States.16 But global warming, experts warn, could drive the aedes aegypti further north. Even more alarming, aedes albopictus–the common tiger mosquito–has not been ruled out as a competent vector for the disease.17

Mosquitos are not a new problem, given the impact of malaria and dengue fever, but some see Zika as yet another indication that governments must prioritize mosquito eradication. While genetic engineering is a popular idea when it comes to insect control, the technology remains less advanced than the need, and for now insecticides may be the most effective option.18 Currently, insect control is not a standard part of the public health infrastructure in countries like the United States. Furthermore, there are concerns of spending vast amounts of money on insecticides that mosquito populations may have developed resistance to, and which could harm other organisms in the ecosystem.19 But as long as countries lack coordinated mosquito control programs, their populations stay largely vulnerable to the disease.20

 

  1. “About Zika Virus Disease”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/index.html.

  2. Donald McNeil, Catherine Saint Louis, and Nicholas St. Fleur, “Short Answers to Hard
Questions About Zika Virus”, The New York Times, February 24, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/health/what-is-zika-virus.html?_r=0.

  3. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html.

  4. Donald McNeil, Catherine Saint Louis, and Nicholas St. Fleur, “Short Answers to Hard
Questions About Zika Virus”, The New York Times, February 24, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/health/what-is-zika-virus.html?_r=0.

  5.“Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html.

  6.“Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html.

  7. “Zika virus”, World Health Organization, February 29, 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/.

  8. “Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html.

  9. “About Zika Virus Disease”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 29, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/index.html.

  10. “WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency Committee regarding clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome”, World Health Organization, February 1, 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/emergency-committee-zika-microcephaly/en/.

  11. Sabrina Tavernise and Donald G. McNeil Jr., “Zika Virus a Global Health Emergency, W.H.O. Says”, The New York Times, February 1, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/health/zika-virus-world-health-organization.html.

  12. Jason Beaubien, “Zika in French Polynesia: It Struck Hard in 2013, Then Disappeared”, NPR, February 9, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/02/09/466152313/zika-in-french-polynesia-it-struck-hard-in-2013-then-disappeared.

  13. Jenny Barchfield, “US-Brazil teams seek mothers, babies for Zika research”, The Huffington Post, February 23, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/us-brazil-teams-probe-link-between-zika-and-microcephaly/2016/02/23/c4f74e80-d9ea-11e5-8210-f0bd8de915f6_story.html.

  14. Lauren Weber, “World Health Organization Warns Against Travel, Trade Bans for Zika Virus”, The Huffington Post, February 1, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/world-health-organization-zika-virus_us_56aa8608e4b00b033aae57eb

  15. Eli Rosenberg, “C.D.C. Urges Pregnant Women to Avoid Travel to Olympics Over Zika Fears”, The New York Times, February 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/cdc-urges-pregnant-women-to-avoid-travel-to-olympics-over-zika-fears.html.

  16. Julia Belluz, “Here’s what it will take to stop the Zika virus”, Vox, January 27, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/1/27/10838286/how-to-stop-zika-virus-outbreak.

  17. “Surveillance and Control of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States”, The Center for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/resources/vector-control.html

  18. Brad Plumer, “The Unsexy Truth About How To Kill Off Mosquitos And Stop the Zika Virus”, Vox, February 7, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/2/4/10908754/zika-virus-mosquito-eradication

  19. “Mosquito control: Can it stop Zika at source?”, The Center for Disease Control, February 17, 2016, http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/articles/mosquito-control/en/.

  20. Maryn McKenna, “Disorganized Disease Control Will Make U.S. Vulnerable To Zika”, National Geographic, February 29, 2016,  http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/29/zika-mosquito-control/

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  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>