While there are still no transmission of the Zika virus from local mosquitoes, researchers have continued working towards understanding the virus. Breakthroughs have occurred in both finding out how the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, as well as developing a low-cost and rapid system for detecting the virus. See below for details of the latest updates:
- To date, there is one locally acquired Zika virus case through sexual transmission and sixty-seven travel-related cases in Canada (+21 from last month). There are no documented cases of Zika infections in Canada or the continental U.S. from local mosquitoes.
- Scientists from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed a new system to detect the Zika virus in humans: a low-cost, rapid, paper-disc diagnostic tool that screens blood, urine, or saliva samples for specific strains of the virus. A change in colour to purple means that the virus is present, while yellow shows that the sample is free from infection.
- Researchers at the University of California San Diego have found that the Zika virus could cause microcephaly by activating TLR3, a molecule that is normally used to defend against invading viruses. In turn, the hyper-activated TLR3 molecules turn off genes that stem cells need to specialize into brain cells and turn on genes that trigger cell suicide. Inhibiting this mechanism has been shown to reduce brain cell damage, which hints at a new possible therapeutic approach to mitigating the effects of prenatal Zika virus infection.
What does this mean for you?
To prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus, Vancouver Coastal Health is recommending that:
- Men returning from Zika virus affected areas should avoid unprotected sexual activity for 6 months, or, if their partner is pregnant, for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Women exposed to the Zika virus either through travel or sexual contact are advised to wait at least 2 months to attempt conception.
Please leave us any questions, or feedback you may have in the comments below and stay tuned next month for our next update!