The Zika Epidemic: The Reasons for the Outbreak

Introduction

Various infectious diseases spread locally today and influence mortality worldwide because people’s mobility increases, and illnesses might be challenging to detect. For instance, the Zika virus, which began in Brazil in 2015, still affects the health of populations in South America and requires healthcare organizations to maintain preventative practices (World Health Organization [WHO], 2019). This paper aims to describe the Zika epidemic, discuss the reasons for the outbreak, and explore how it might have been avoided or mitigated.

Zika Outbreak Identification and Effect

Person

The Zika outbreak that occurred in 2015 in Brazil affected urban areas’ inhabitants as the transmitting mosquitos lived among humans. A person might be bitten by the insect or infected through unsafe sexual contact, and the common symptoms of the disease are fever, rash, microcephaly, and conjunctivitis (Palacios & Shah, 2019). Zika can cause severe congenital disabilities; thus, pregnant women are at a higher risk, and identifying the infection must be performed if any chance to interact with it occurs.

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Place

Zika has been primarily identified in Africa, yet with the increased human mobility, it transitioned to the Americas and emerged several outbreaks. The rapidly rising incidence of microcephaly in Brazil pointed the attention to the global challenge in 2015 and forced healthcare providers worldwide to develop a response (Castro et al., 2017). Socioeconomic factors were also critical as the places with higher poverty rates had more cases and experienced more difficulties in prevention.

Time

The disease outbreak emerged in 2015 and has been addressed within a few years, yet Zika is dangerous for humanity because no specific cure or vaccine exists today. Until 2007, the virus was considered infected by limited geographical distribution, yet now it spreads broadly, forcing modern scientists to explore its molecular, pathogenic, and clinical aspects (Yadav & Mohite, 2020). Zika incidence was significantly lower in 2021, but it is still being transmitted through tropical mosquitoes and human’s unsafe behaviors.

Zika Outbreak Exploration

Zika virus emerged in Africa and then reached South American countries, which had no immune predisposition to address the disease effectively. Vector theory suggests that the Aedes mosquitos carrying the virus live in urban areas, and their behavior is difficult to control (Yadav & Mohite, 2020). According to the epidemiologic triangle applied to the selected outbreak, it is crucial to identify the disease’s agent, host, and environment (Friis & Sellers, 2021). A single-stranded RNA Zika Virus is the infection’s agent transmitted through blood, percutaneously, sexual contact, and from mother to newborn (Castro et al., 2017). The disease’s host is the Aedes species mosquito which lives near humans, frequently bites them, and breeds in water pools. The environment is comfortable for insects’ reproduction, such as tropics and socioeconomic circumstances where unsafe sexual contacts are frequent.

Interventions to Address The Infectious Disease

Zika virus’ most dangerous outcome is that mothers transmit the illness to their children, and therefore people’s awareness of the consequences must be increased. The lack of public healthcare interventions related to contraception, hygiene, and safe contact increased the disease outbreak in Brazil. Lowe et al. (2018) claim that the “national response to the Zika crisis has largely focused on household-level mosquito elimination efforts, such as cleaning water storage containers, eliminating standing water, and spraying” (p. 96). Indeed, aside from educational programs and promotional campaigns, environmental intervention is necessary.

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Strategies to Avoid or Mitigate Zika Outbreaks

The Zika outbreak might have been mitigated by the more rapid response of Brazil’s healthcare providers and epidemiologists. Moreover, the WHO had already been familiar with the disease, its agents, symptoms, and outcomes; therefore, it could react by sending responsible specialists to educate the locals and address the epidemic challenge (Palacios & Shah, 2019). Today, outbreaks are being controlled by avoiding mosquito bites via insect repellents, nets, pregnancy checkups, and promotional campaigns for contraception.

Conclusion

Zika virus outbreak emerged in South American countries and forced epidemiologists to conduct studies to address the health challenge. Although no vaccine or cure exists today, the symptoms and risks explored helped WHO and other organizations develop prevention strategies. Epidemiological studies’ conclusions also provided sufficient knowledge to set public health interventions and methods to avoid Zika outbreaks by avoiding contact with mosquitoes and promoting proper healthcare practices.

References

Castro, M., Pérez, D., Guzman, M. G., & Barrington, C. (2017). Why did Zika not explode in Cuba? The role of active community participation to sustain control of vector-borne diseases. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 97(2), 311.

Friis, R. H., & Sellers, T. A. (2021). Epidemiology for public health practice (6th ed.). Jones & Bartlett.

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Lowe, R., Barcellos, C., Brasil, P., Cruz, O. G., Honório, N. A., Kuper, H., & Carvalho, M. S. (2018). The Zika virus epidemic in Brazil: from discovery to future implications. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 96. Web.

Palacios, R., & Shah, S. K. (2019). When could human challenge trials be deployed to combat emerging infectious diseases? Lessons from the case of a Zika virus human challenge trial. Trials, 20(2), 1-8.

World Health Organization. (2019). Information for travellers visiting countries with Zika virus transmission. 

Yadav, A. R., & Mohite, S. K. (2020). A review on zika virus infection. Research Journal of Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms and Technology, 12(4), 295-297.

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