Abstract

The Zika virus was discovered in Uganda in 1947. The illness has managed to maintain a low profile due to its mild effects. An outbreak of 2014 in Brazil has attracted international attention and since then many researchers have been investigating various aspects of this virus. Most notable is its impact on the unborn children, and it results in the development of a condition known as microcephaly. In adults, it causes the Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). This paper investigates its causes, symptoms, effects, and some of the conditions it is associated with.

Introduction

Over the past two years, Brazil has been the center of globe’s attention for both the right and wrong reasons. In 2014, the country hosted the FIFA World Cup, and in 2016 – the summer Olympics and the just concluded Paralympics games. Despite the success of both tournaments, there were concerns over the re-emergence of an illness that was previously considered to only be a mild infection. Severe effects of the Zika virus started to manifest themselves in the latter half of 2014 in the country. Prospective travelers to the FIFA World Cup took the necessary precautions in the wake of media reports which indicated high prevalence of the illness in Brazil. The outbreak spread from Brazil to major parts of South America and small parts of the North. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that if strict measures were not taken, the illness would spread over the entire American continent. Interestingly, before the Brazilian and subsequent South American epidemic, the Zika virus, which causes the Zika fever, was not considered a serious disease as it only resulted in mild symptoms. The epidemic, however, had some serious effects, which attracted the attention of experts and even the health departments as well as travel advisories of other countries. An investigation into the causes, symptoms, and effects of the disease is worthwhile so as to adopt effective strategies to combat it.

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The Zika Virus

This virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and is related to dengue and yellow fevers, Nile viruses and Japanese encephalitis. The virus is spread by the Aedes mosquitoes which are highly active during the daytime. The infection caused by the virus results in the Zika fever, or Zika virus disease, which has no or very little symptoms. In fact, its manifestations are similar to those of the mild form of the dengue fever.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the primary vector of the virus. The female insects must feed off blood to lay eggs, and they transmit the disease during the feeding. Once in the human body, the virus has an incubation period of about ten days before the symptoms manifest themselves. Sexual contact can also spread the illness. The virus can last in the human semen for up to two weeks. Thus couples who are suspected to have contracted the disease are advised to refrain from sexual relationships. The virus can also spread from an infected mother to the fetus in the course of the pregnancy or during childbirth. Blood transfusion is also a means through which the virus can spread.

Once the virus is in the human body, some of the visible symptoms include red eyes, mild fever, pain in the joints, migraines, and even skin rash. The disease can be diagnosed by carrying out blood, urine, and saliva tests of the suspected individual. To date, there have been no reported deaths related to the disease, but studies have found that infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly or other brain damages in fetuses, and the Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in adults. The Zika fever is a dangerous disease given its mode of activity. Its symptoms are not easily noticeable, yet the effects, especially in unborn children, are severe and, in fact, irreversible. The disease, therefore, needs a closer investigation to ensure that humans do not raise a generation of children with impaired cognitive abilities.

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Literature Review

In order to gain further insights about the disease, a number of findings from various studies have been reviewed. Grard et al. (2007) investigate the translational process of the Zika virus as well as the symptoms among patients who have been suspected to have the disease. The study has found that the virus is an epidemiologic challenge because it is transferable to other sections of the globe by viral means. The article reveals that the type of the virus found in other parts of the globe is quite similar to the one that has been initially discovered in Uganda. It further provides some of the epidemiologic conditions under which the virus can be transferred. This knowledge is vital for the improvement of patient outcomes. Oehler et al. (2014) have not only contributed to the investigation on Zika virus, but have also enhanced the knowledge of ethical guidelines during the process of research. The study highlights the relationship between the virus and the GBS syndrome. The research also reveals that the resultant disease is an effect of the Zika virus. This conclusion is drawn from the manner in which the disease of the patient under investigation has been progressing. It thus identifies causes, possible ways of transmission and its symptoms, which are flu-like. Brasil et al. (2016) have investigated the activity of the virus in pregnant women. Previous studies had linked the possibility of the disease transmission from mothers to their unborn children. This study confirmed that children born to the mothers who had been confirmed to be Zika-positive contracted the disease. Children were born with CNS abnormalities and confirmed microcephaly.

Haddow et al. (2012) expanded the knowledge on Zika virus by looking at its genetic characteristics. This study, which involved the collaboration of scientists from the United States and Cambodia, revealed that there was little difference in the strains of virus causing the illness. The evidence suggests that the primary vectors are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Other mosquitoes are also suspected, but have not yet been confirmed. Mlakar et al. (2016) tried to link microcephaly with Zika virus. There was evidence of the virus in the community where the mother resided. She had the outlined above symptoms, and the baby was checked for abnormal fetal movement and confirmed to have microcephaly. The pregnancy was then terminated with the mother’s consent. This research, therefore, reinforced the findings of Brasil et al. (2016) as well as the notion that the virus caused CNS problems in unborn children. Cauchemez et al. (2016) expanded the study on the link between microcephaly and the Zika virus in French Polynesia. The research used secondary data in the form of medical records and surveillance data to confirm that microcephaly was discoverable in the fourth month after the commencement of the study period. It, therefore, was concluded that pregnant women who got infected while in the first trimesters were at the most risk of giving birth to children with microcephaly.

Contributions and Role of Nurses

Among all health care professionals, nurses play the most crucial role in attaining the desired patient outcomes because they are often in touch with them. One of the ways in which nurses can contribute to the alleviation of the Zika fever is by educating those who face the most risk. Training and workshops for communities at high risk should be used to create awareness of the disease and its prevention strategies (Brasil et al., 2016). Nurses can also use the research processes for the benefit of communities. These health care professionals can be of help by granting interviews on what they have witnessed and directing researchers to areas where the disease is prevalent. Nurses can also assist in the advocacy process. With the help of organizations, they can lobby for the government’s assistance in controlling the spread of the virus.

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Compare and Contrast Select Healthcare Policies

Healthcare practitioner and other stakeholders, including the government, have come up with different policies that are meant to deal with the Zika virus. One of the policies that they have explored involves carrying out of early testing to establish significantly affected areas as well as populations at risk. Secondly, some governments have issued travel advisories against countries that have recorded numerous cases of the disease. A comparison of the two policies mentioned above reveals that both of them are preventative in nature. They both require the involvement of the officials, health providers and the public to yield excellent results. However, they differ in terms of the cost of implementation. In this case, carrying out clinical tests on large populations can be very expensive compared to travel advisories.

Ethical Issues and Decisions in Healthcare

The efforts of the international community to fight the Zika virus outbreak have led to the emergence of numerous ethical concerns. Prominently, pregnant women and unborn infants comprise the population that is significantly affected by this disease. In addition, health care practitioners recognize that they are still uncertain about numerous factors concerning this problem. Hence, there is a need to collect a lot of evidence which is not available at the moment. Therefore, medical practitioners have an ethical duty to carry out extensive research to come up with the best prevention and treatment methods (Oehler, et. al. 2013). Besides, researchers have a duty to make the community aware about their research undertakings since they are directly involved in data collection and sampling. It is important to make the community cooperate in the vases of such health emergencies as the Zika virus outbreak. Another ethical concern of research relates to the healthcare provider’s obligation to maintain confidentiality. For instance, Oehler et al. (2013) observe that scientists should avoid disclosing the names of the research participants.

Global Healthcare Delivery Systems

The global healthcare delivery systems for the problem in question involve the use of preventative measures, since there is still no vaccine that can help protect people from contacting the Zika virus infection. For example, health care professionals are constantly creating awareness about the disease, especially among pregnant women. They should not go to areas where the mosquitoes transmitting the virus exist and sleep under protective nets. Pregnant women are advised to exercise abstinence to avoid the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Another preventative measure entails carrying out environmental assessment activities with the aim of reducing the potential breeding of mosquitoes. An evaluation of the existing systems shows that such global healthcare delivery strategies are meant to reach all people regardless of their social status, since this is a global concern. Public participation in the fight against the outbreak is of equal importance as well.

Program Level Student Learning Outcomes

With the help of a variety of studies, this research has attained some of the necessary learning outcomes. An in-depth look at the sources reveals that most of the literature reviewed has incorporated clinical methods to gather evidence on: the insect that carries the virus; the strains of the virus; the effects on the body; and the manner in which the virus is transmitted from one person to another. Collaboration among professionals has been used to develop recommendations on how the illness can be avoided. In the study of Oehler et al. (2014), the focus is on a patient diagnosed with GBS. As a research participant, the authors make a reasonable effort to protect her confidentiality. This decision promotes the SLO requiring the advocacy of ethical conduct during research. The study also promotes the use of evidence-based practices in decision making. Cauchemez et al. (2016) study proceeds from accurate data and statics collected during the Zika outbreak in French Polynesia. They incorporate previous studies that show the relationship between the virus and microcephaly in unborn children and even offer advice to the participant to terminate the pregnancy. Collaboration in the process of conducting research is also present in the investigated sources. The study conducted by Haddow et al. (2012) involves collaboration between the US and Cambodia in investigating the type of strains in South East Asia and making recommendations. The spread of the virus is also influenced by the environment. The study thus looks at the ways in which the disease can be controlled by putting in place environmental safeguards that inhibit the activity of mosquitoes. Lastly, it is worth noting that all the used sources have been critically analyzed for the validity of the evidence presented in their findings. Most of the studies involved primary research and pertinent issues such as the selection of sample, elimination of bias, and methods used to collect evidence, among others, were controlled well.

Conclusion

This study has made an in-depth analysis of the Zika virus and its effects. The disease has gained prominence in the last two years due to the outbreak in Brazil and its subsequent spread in South and North America. The disease is dangerous owing to its mild flu-like symptoms but exaggerated effects, such as microcephaly in unborn children and the GBS in adults. Using a variety of sources, this study has found that the virus is transferred by mosquitoes, specifically their Aedes type. It can also be spread by unprotected sexual contact, blood transfusion and from mothers to unborn children. This study also highlights the role of nurses, compares health policies that are suitable to dealing with the disease, and noted the ethical issues of handling patients and global healthcare delivery systems. All of these findings provide the framework for handling the virus effectively. The paper has also identified various student learning objectives and the manner in which the research has attained them.

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