Somia Iqtadar, MBBS, is an associate professor of medicine at King Edward Medical University, Pakistan, and chairperson of the Dengue Expert Advisory Group.
Could you comment on the current epidemiology of Zika virus disease? Is Zika virus still a significant threat for pregnant women?
Zika virus is another virus that is a threat all over the world, but particularly in the tropical countries, again, because it is spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
Zika virus actually affects a lot of pregnant females, and the consequences is that they give birth to babies with congenital deformities, which are ocular and neurological problems, microcephaly. It also can lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
About 5% of the babies born to pregnant females who were hit by Zika suffer from these problems, and it can lead to halting of the development of the embryo in the early stages of pregnancy. The babies who are born have congenital malformations, neurological problems, ocular problems, microcephaly. And even if they are born healthy, sometimes in the later part of life they have some serious health issues. I think it is a great threat to the entire community and to the pregnant population in particular.
Zika is not a new virus. It was seen for the first time in 1952 in Uganda. In 2015 onwards in Brazil there was a huge epidemic, and then it peaked in 2016 and 2017 in the American regions. Now 87 countries are affected by Zika and it’s present in all the 6 regions of the World Health Organization (WHO). It remains a major threat to people, particularly to the pregnant population.