The Zika Virus Is Not The Only Insect-Borne Disease To Damage Developing Fetuses
By now we all know that the Zika virus has devastating effects on developing fetuses. Unfortunately, researchers are learning that other mosquito-borne diseases also cause severe birth defects. In total, four viruses in the same family as Zika can affect developing fetuses. Two of these viruses have been found to cause fetal defects as well as death in mice. One of these four dangerous mosquito-borne diseases is the West Nile virus. The prevalence of these diseases varies by country, but researchers noted that the country of Israel was particularly affected by the worst of the West Nile Virus.
American media outlets typically refer to Brazil as being the hardest hit by the Zika virus. This is reasonable given the high rate of Zika-related birth defects that have been documented in Brazil during the past few years. However, current research is showing that mosquito-borne viruses could also damage developing fetuses in the middle-east. Although we do not hear much about the West Nile virus in other countries, this virus is actually endemic in Israel. Poor living conditions in certain regions of Israel attract West Nile-carrying mosquitoes. The regions of Israel that see the highest rates of West Nile infection are poor regions with open sewers. These open sewers attract a dizzying amount of mosquitoes. Officials with the Israeli Health Ministry have claimed that eighty eight people per year become infected with the West Nile virus. The risk of mosquito-borne disease facing Israel is remarkably high, and the future of mosquito-control in the country is questionable. Researchers also learned that four different flaviviruses can likely lead to birth defects. These Zika-related flavivirus include the West Nile Virus, Powassan, chikungunya and Mayaro. So far these diseases have been shown to damage developing fetuses in female mice. Although mice are not humans, the researchers stressed that the four viruses are capable of replicating in human and maternal fetal tissues.
Do you think that a spike in mosquito-borne diseases will occur in certain areas of the world this coming summer?