To combat the outbreak of Zika in Brazil and around the world, scientists around the world are working to better understand the virus. Now a team of researchers have determined the exact structure of the virus. With it, the researchers think it will help them better understand exactly how the virus gets transmitted and once it does how it causes disease. Their work was published today in Science.
To stop the spread of the Zika virus, the Brazilian government has tried numerous methods to slow the spread and control the population of the aedes mosquito, which spreads the virus. But as outbreak shows no hint of decline, officials may attempt a new approach: to sterilize millions of male mosquitoes by zapping them with gamma rays, according to a report today by Reuters.
Today, President Obama requested $1.8 billion in emergency funding from Congress for preparedness and research into the Zika virus, according to a White House press release. Though the president emphasized that people shouldn't panic about Zika, it should be taken seriously especially because of its link to the birth defect microcephaly.
Since the first case was diagnosed in April 2015 in Brazil, the Zika virus has spread throughout the Americas. While mosquito-borne virus has fairly mild, flu-like symptoms, it's also thought to cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with heads that are smaller than normal. Because mosquito bites are so hard to prevent and there's currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika, the World Health Organization has declared Zika a global public health emergency. Yesterday the governor of Florida declared a state of emergency in the state's nine counties in which cases of Zika have been diagnosed.
As the Zika virus continues to infect people worldwide, health officials in the United States and abroad agree that a vaccine is clearly needed. Unfortunately the rarity of the virus and the fact that a vaccine has never been in development has left researchers scrambling to come up with something safe and effective. However, while vaccines typically take between seven and 15 years to develop, Canadian researchers working on a Zika vaccine told Reuters today that one could be ready for emergency use before the end of 2016.