Zika virus which is a mosquito-borne disease has been linked to cases of babies born in Brazil with microcephaly - underdeveloped brains. Martha Lucia Ospina, head of Colombia's National Health Institute confirmed that the three deaths attributed to Zika virus. However, in this particular case, the three deaths were preceded by Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre is a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system and it is not normally fatal.
Another six deaths were being investigated for possible links to Zika. There will probably be more other cases of deaths linked to Zika. The world is realising that Zika virus can be deadly. The mortality rate is not very high, but it can be deadly.
Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist with the University of Nottingham, UK said that we have been saying that Zika virus has been associated with Guillain-Barre. One of the complications of that could be respiratory failure. But it is still probably a very rare event. Although Zika usually causes mild, flu-like symptoms, it has been linked to thousands of suspected birth defects. However, it has not yet been proved that Zika causes either microcephaly or Guillain-Barre. The main method of infection is through a mosquito bite but scientists in Brazil say tests on two patients revealed Zika virus can be found in other body fluids. Paulo Gadelha, the head of Brazil's Fiocruz Institute which is part of the Ministry of Health, said the presence of the active Zika virus has been found in saliva and urine. But that does not mean there is a capacity for transmission through saliva and urine. Traces of Zika's genetic material were detected in saliva and urine during the 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia, but the Brazilian authorities say this is the first time active virus has been detected. Oswaldo Cruz, also from Fiocruz, added, It means the virus is active, capable of infecting a cell so this is completely different, it means that the virus is functional.
Brazil has seen 4,783 suspected cases of babies born with small brains, although only 404 of them have been confirmed, 709 have been rejected and 3,670 are still being investigated. Meanwhile, the US has advised men to abstain from sex or use condoms after visiting affected countries, if their partner is pregnant. The US Centers for Disease Control believes a recent case of Zika virus was spread through sex. The updated advice says avoiding mosquitoes remains the best way to prevent infection, but advises men returning from affected countries to correctly use condoms during sex or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the governor of Puerto Rico has declared a public health emergency over Zika. The US territory has 22 confirmed cases.