49 Zika Cases Returned to America in 2019

Zika disease vaccines include Takeda TAK-426 and ZPIV
sleeping baby girl healthy
South America (Zika News)

While Africa’s Ebola outbreak is capturing the media’s attention, the Zika virus is spreading in various countries around the world, according to various state, national and international reports. 

As of July 16, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the states of Florida (26), California (21), Utah (1) and Nebraska (1) have reported 49 travel-related Zika cases this year. 

Additionally, the US Territory of Puerto Rico has confirmed 22 Zika cases during 2019. These new Zika cases were acquired through the presumed local, mosquito-borne transmission during 2019.   

These new Zika cases are in addition to 219 Zika cases confirmed by the CDC during 2018. 

Additionally, a total of 87 countries and territories have had evidence of autochthonous mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus (ZIKV), reports the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 2, 2019. 

In a few situations, the CDC, Canadia and UK governments have issued specific Travel Alerts related to the ZIKV. To alert international travelers prior to planning a trip abroad, the CDC publishes a ‘map’ of countries reporting Zika cases.

During 2019, Zika-related Travel Alerts have been issued for countries such as:

This information is very concerning from a public health perspective. While many people with Zika virus infection experience no symptoms, the virus poses potentially serious risks to unborn children.

The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses, says the CDC.

Various health agencies continue to recommend pregnant women and those considering pregnancy, avoid traveling to Zika endemic countries, such as Puerto Rico. And, these women should refrain from sexual contact with a Zika infected person.

A recent study found pregnant women who become infected with Zika early in pregnancy were 17 times more likely to deliver a baby suffering from Microcephaly, and other negative health conditions.

Anyone who has not already been infected with the Zika virus can get it. Once a person has been infected, they are likely to be protected from future infections, says the CDC. 

Zika news

Zika tests

To assist healthcare providers better diagnose these diseases, the CDC recently published a report during June 2019, that summarizes existing and new guidance on dengue and Zika virus diagnostic testing.

This new guidance is for patients with a clinically compatible illness, who live in or recently traveled to an area where there is a risk for infection with either of the dengue or Zika viruses.

These risks have increased the importance of having a Zika diagnostic test available.

In response to this need, a test that detects Zika virus immunoglobulin (IgM) antibodies in human blood was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on May 25th, 2019.

The ZIKV Detect 2.0 IgM Capture ELISA is designed to identify proteins (antibodies) produced by the body's immune system when it tests for Zika virus infection in the blood. This Zika test is for use only in patients with clinical signs and symptoms consistent with Zika virus infection, and/or who meet the CDC’s Zika virus epidemiological criteria, such as a history of residence in or travel to a geographic region with active Zika transmission at the time of travel.

Every diagnostic test can generate false positives and negatives, which is an important reason to test only when there are good clinical reasons. 

Zika vaccine candidates

Researchers around the world are trying to develop Zika vaccines using different platforms like DNA vaccines, live attenuated vaccines, and adeno-associated virus vaccines. The goal of a Zika virus vaccine is to elicit protective antibodies against the Zika virus to prevent infection and severe disease.

These Zika vaccine candidates include, but are not limited to, the following list:

There are other vaccines in early-to-mid-stage development for the Zika virus, such as the National Institutes of Health's Zika Virus Vaccine, GeneOne's GLS-5700, Moderna's mRNA vaccine; Imutex's AGS-v vaccine; Johnson & Johnson's Ad26.ZIKV.001 vaccine; Emergent BioSolutions' ZIKV-IG; and Valneva's ZIKV-VLA1601.

But these vaccines will take more time before they become available to the public. 

The overall likelihood of approval of a Phase I vaccine is 16 percent and takes an average of 8.6 years to receive FDA approval.

The WHO continues to work with regional and national health authorities to enhance health system capacity to detect, report, and respond to the continued threat of ZIKV transmission, as well as to other mosquito-borne viruses and other emerging and re-emerging threats to public health.