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Zika Virus Link to Rare Birth Defect?

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Zika Virus Link to Rare Birth Defect?
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Zika Virus is a relatively new and rapidly expanding mosquito-borne disease, first identified in humans in 1952. Spread by the Aedes mosquito, it causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, nausea and headaches. The symptoms are usually mild and last up to 7 days[1], however recently a link has been suggested between the virus and birth defects, particularly microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder.

A study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases on 17th February confirms that the Zika virus can cross the placental barrier and potentially cause microcephaly, though experts urge caution, stating that although the evidence strengthens the theory, the link isn’t yet definitely proven. “This study cannot determine whether the Zika virus identified in these two cases was the cause of microcephaly in the babies. Until we understand the biological mechanism linking Zika virus to microcephaly we cannot be certain that one causes the other, and further research is urgently needed,” says Dr. Ana de Filippis[2], lead author of the study.

The Ministry of Health has announced that no cases of the Zika virus have been recorded in Qatar, thus confirming that the mosquitos carrying the disease are not found here. The Ministry of Health stated that it is working closely with the World Health Organization to ensure that all new information about the virus is communicated to the public. Though no clear ban has been set on travelling to countries where the Zika Virus is present, the Ministry of Health advises those who wish to travel, in particular those who are pregnant, to avoid affected countries when possible and take appropriate precautions.