Zika Virus News: Pregnant Florida Women Test Positive, Worse Defects Possible

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Feb 26, 2016 06:55 AM EST

On Wednesday, three more pregnant women in Florida have tested positive for the Zika virus, raising the total within the state alone to 32. The virus has been attributed to an explosion of cases of microcephaly in newborn babies.

Infected Aedes mosquitoes can transmit the virus to humans. However, the first case of the Zika virus in the U.S. was through sexual contact with an infected individual.

Massachusetts General Hospital's director of obstetrics and gynecology infectious disease Dr. Laura Riley said hat there's nothing they can do for those infected with the virus.

 "We're hunting and looking for something we can't do anything about. There's no treatment and no prevention, other than just not getting bitten."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued several travel health notices, discouraging people from traveling to areas where Zika cases have been reported.

Reports indicate that there are more concerning aspects to the Zika virus that what has been initially revealed. In Brazil, a seven-month fetus infected with the virus was found to have no brain.

The mother of the dead fetus was unaware that she had been infected as she did not exhibit any symptoms. This indicates that the virus can still affect the development of infants without affecting the mother.

In a report published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr. Albert Ko and his colleagues stated that "the first indication of an abnormal pregnancy was the ultrasound finding of intrauterine growth retardation in the 18th gestational week."

Succeeding tests revealed that the fetus was developing without a brain. Liquid filled the cranial cavity as well as the infant's lung area.

Medical institutions are ramping up efforts into understanding the Zika virus and finding a cure. Inside Maryland's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center, scientists are hoping to find a cure by injecting the Zika virus into volunteers.

At the moment, they are testing the effects of different Zika vaccines on animals. Once they find the best variant, the scientists intend to test the vaccine in human subjects.

According to the NIAID Vaccine Research Center's deputy director Dr. Barney Graham, it normally takes decades and large studies to develop a vaccine. In the case of the Zika virus, scientists are planning to inject the virus into young, healthy volunteers who have no intention of becoming pregnant soon.

In addition to ethical issues surrounding injecting people with a virus, scientists are also concerned that the virus might also increase the likelihood of volunteers developing other conditions, such as the Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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