Zika Virus Update: A Q&A With an Expert Virologist
The Zika virus has been all over the news of late, but what do we really know about this mosquito-born illness and how it is transmitted?
Here, Zika expert Leslie Lobel M.D., Ph.D., a virologist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetic s at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel, helps us separate the facts from our fears.
Q.: Just how concerned should we be about Zika in the US?
A.: “You do not need to be to concerned at the present time as the virus has not entered the ecosystem. Regarding Zika in general, too little is known at present regarding cause and effect of viral infection. Zika virus infection is fairly mild and is not of great concern. However, caution is advised for pregnant women due to the compelling association between viral infection and microcephaly. For now, the most at risk are pregnant women and those contemplating pregnancy who live in or will be traveling to affected geographic regions. The hysteria surrounding Zika is simply far ahead of the research and facts.
Q. Have we ever seen Zika in the US before?
A. Although we haven’t seen it in the US before, it was not routinely tested for and has, until now, only produced a mild illness.
Q. There was a recent reports that the virus was transmitted sexually in Dallas, Texas. Is sexual transmission common?
A. “This is not known. In epidemic regions, it will be hard to tell as transmission by mosquito is probably more likely. We don’t know how frequent this mode of transmission might be. Precautions are advised for couples in affected regions or who travelled to affected regions. “
Q. What do we need to get ahead of a potential epidemic?
A. “There is an urgent need for much research and vaccine development so that we are prepared for a changing virulence and global footprint of the virus. “