The sheer horror of it was understandable when the first photos of deformed infants began appearing in local and international news reports. Perhaps not as deadly as Ebola, which was considered to be “out of control” in parts of West Africa in 2014, the Zika virus, said to be carried by a once common mosquito, Aedes aegypti (photo above), has now spread to many countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Concern about the Zika virus at the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil, considered to be the “epicenter” of the Zika outbreak, has reached a stage that an international group of doctors are now urging that the games either be moved to another location or postponed.
Although still not positively linked to Aedes aegypti, the Zika virus, named after a forest in Uganda Africa, is suspected as being the cause of a steep rise in birth defects from a condition known as microcephaly. The deformity causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and brains.
Israel and neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon are not yet high on the list of countries where the Zika virus could spread, due to the Aedes aegypti mosquito being considered to be extinct there. The one case of Zika virus, that has occurred so far in Israel to a two year old child, was attributed to the child being exposed to it in Columbia. There is a possibility though of the virus being carried by another mosquito, the Aedes Asian Tiger mosquito.
According to Israel’s Health Ministry, Israel and 17 European countries have a “moderate risk” of having cases of Zika virus from Asian Tiger mosquitos, which are said to have come from Egypt’s Nile Delta region.
The Zika virus, although known in Africa for over 60 years, was not considered to be deadly; and has symptoms similar to cases of the flu. The steep rise of cases of infant deformities in South American countries like Columbia and Brazil, which are now strongly suspected to be caused by Zika, has caused the World Health Organization to issue an alarm warning about the spread of the Zika Virus to both Europe and North America. The heart rending photos like this one of a South American mother and her microcephaly stricken child are enough to make fears of the Zika virus all the more real.
Read more on viruses and other diseases that have caused concern in the Middle East:
Photo of Aedes aegypti feeding, by Wikipedia.org
Photo of woman with microcephaly stricken child by EPA/Antonio Lacerda