Zika virus: The risk is down, but it's no time to be complacent
Cases of Zika infection have dropped significantly in Georgia and across the United States, public health officials say. The state has identified just five cases of travel-related Zika infections so far this year, down from 114 last year.
Despite the decrease, the Atlanta-based CDC emphasizes that Zika continues to be a public health threat. And anywhere Zika is active, the threat to pregnant woman remains very real. Public Health officials in Georgia said in January that the state documented one Zika-related birth defect here.
When Zika virus first emerged as a sensation in the news in 2015, fear of the unknown rippled across the world. By April 2016, scientists confirmed that the Zika virus could be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. The CDC then told the public that the virus could cause birth defects such as microcephaly, a serious condition characterized by abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
Since the initial media frenzy, scientists have been working tirelessly in the lab to understand the intricate details of Zika virus infection, seeking to develop a vaccine.
“I’ve never seen a research community team up and begin to do as much research on a single pathogen in such a short amount of time,” Dr. Mehul Suthar, a Zika expert at Emory, told GHN. “And this includes studying its pathogenesis, studying the biology of the virus, studying its epidemiology, studying mosquito species, trying to identify antiviral drugs, [and] studying how the virus binds to cells. Dr. Suthar is a faculty member in the IMP and MMG programs.