Question: Growing up, I have always been confused and curious about what causes the common cold, a sickness, and disease or infection more generally. After some basic research, it has become evident that viruses and bacteria are the main cause of these diseases or infections. In this article I would like to provide the basic research describing infection and disease. Following the background information, I would like to discuss viruses more thoroughly so I can answer the question, what is the Zika Virus?

Answer: An infection is when a foreign microorganism enters a body and reproduces. A disease is the symptoms you get from any infection. These symptoms are a result of responses from the immune system. Strep throat, tuberculosis, and urinary tract infections are examples of infections caused by bacteria. Chickenpox, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the common cold are examples of diseases caused by viruses.

Viruses are small infectious particles containing nucleic acid surrounded by a “capsid” or a shell made up of proteins.  There are two types of virus. The virus that is made with just a capsid and is non-enveloped is known as a lytic virus.  A virus with a shell made up of proteins is known as an enveloped virus with spikes. Viruses have genomes composed of single or double stranded DNA or RNA. The chromosomes can be circular or linear. To replicate their genetic material, viruses rely on the cells that they infect, their host cells.

The Zika Virus is an enveloped virus. Its genome consists of linear positive-sense RNA. The structure of Zika is related to other flaviviruses. It contains a nucleocapsid 25-30nm in diameter surrounded by a host-membrane derived lipid bilayer that contains envelope proteins E and M.

The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection. Discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947, it is believed to be common across Africa and Asia. It began spreading to the Western Hemisphere around the year of 2013, but its presence wasn’t confirmed until May 2015. It was identified as the “mystery disease” that has been prevalent across northeast Brazil.  About four in five victims don’t have symptoms, those who do usually recover within a week. Common symptoms include fever, itchy pink rash, bloodshot eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches and joint pains.The largest concern with the virus is with pregnant women. The virus is known to cause brain damage to the fetuses, a disease known as microcephaly.

Part of the reason I was interested in discussing this topic is because Rory McIlroy was considering missing the first golf event in the Olympics. He wasn’t going to participate because of concern with contracting the Zika Virus. He now say’s, “I feel like the advice I’ve sought out over the past 10 days has put my mind at ease and makes me more comfortable going down there knowing that, even if I do contract Zika, it’s not the end of the world. It takes six months to pass through your system and you’re fine.”

  • Nathan M.




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