MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – The Arthur Guyton Foundation (AGF) is announcing the release of emergency funding through its Guyton Global Health Initiative for the purpose of combating the deadly outbreak of Zika virus in the greater Latin American region at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil in May 2015. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus is transmitted to humans by way of mosquito bites; the virus has also been reported to be perpetuated among humans through sexual contact. Common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye, also known as “redeye” or “pinkeye”). Under normal circumstances, the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from a few days to a week. Although uncommon, severe cases of the disease may require hospitalization.
As of February 3, 2016, the Zika virus had been reported in thirty-five cases in the contiguous United States, including Alaska and Hawaii; in all of these cases, the patient was deduced to have acquired the disease by way of foreign travel. In response to these cases, the CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to countries, mostly concentrated in South and Central America, where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, Samoa, Tonga, and Cape Verde. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have also been placed on the travel notice.
U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Dr. James E. Brown, AGF Board Member and practicing gynecologist at Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, warned that pregnant women in particular are at severe risk of contracting life-threatening conditions as a result of exposure to the Zika virus. According to the CDC, ongoing outbreak in Latin America has led to reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes. Dr. Brown recommended that pregnant women and those in contact with pregnant women take particular care in avoiding affected regions and those exposed to affected regions.
Sreyas Menon, Director of the Guyton Global Health Initiative, announced that The Arthur Guyton Foundation is pledging to vet appropriate disease relief efforts in both the United States and Latin America in order to contribute funds effectively and responsibly toward alleviating and ending the outbreak. “The Zika virus is a deadly disease with no vaccine,” Menon explained. “It is clear that Zika virus is a threat to millions of people, not only in the currently infected countries, but also the United States. When spring and summer come to the United States, mosquitoes will again become a problem. This summer, Americans, especially pregnant women, will need to take precautions against mosquitoes to prevent both Zika virus and West Nile Virus.”
The Arthur Guyton Foundation will continue to monitor the development of the outbreak both globally and domestically in the coming months in order to play a positive role in isolation and prevention.