The mosquito-borne Zika virus now spreading rapidly in several countries in the southern hemisphere—and diagnosed in a reported dozen travelers who have returned to the United States—has been circumstantially linked to the dramatic rise of a severe birth defect in Brazil. In a January 28, 2016 interview with the public radio program The Takeaway, Marcia Castro, an associate professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that researchers need to learn a lot more about Zika.
“It’s scary, because since we don’t know much about the virus, we don’t know the potential mechanisms that could cause microcephaly [babies born with unusually small heads and cognitive and developmental impairments],” she said.
Only one in five people infected with Zika have symptoms, Castro said. “We don’t know if a pregnant woman contracts Zika but doesn’t have symptoms, if that’s going to be a problem. There are a lot of unknowns, which a little bit ties our hands about what we can do.”
Castro said that researchers in Brazil are working on a diagnostic test for Zika. In the short term, she advocates for a strategy focused on destroying mosquitoes’ breeding environments.
Listen to Castro’s interview on The Takeaway: The Zika virus has reached the United States
In Zika response, WHO should learn from Ebola mistakes (Harvard Chan School News)
Zika virus in Brazil may be mutated strain (Harvard Chan School News)