The Zika virus has triggered a global response; countries are pooling information and resources in an unprecedented show of cooperation. Efforts to combat the problem have increased in lockstep with the spread of the disease. One company proposes releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to help reduce the breeding population; others are taking the more tradition route and working to develop a vaccine.

The Zika Timeline

Zika isn’t new, but never before has the disease affected so many. The virus was discovered in the Zika forest in 1947 in Uganda while scientists conducted screening tests for yellow fever. The first human cases were detected in 1952, but outbreaks remained isolated and limited to small populations. The virus traveled through Asia and the Pacific, and the first local infections in Brazil were reported in May 2015; just six months later, an association between the virus and microcephaly was reported.

Now, two independent studies may have discovered the mechanism by which the Zika virus causes the birth defect microcephaly. The first study shows how the virus crosses the placental barrier. Michael Diamond, who led the Washington University School of Medicine research in St. Louis, told Scientific American, “There were doubts about the intrauterine transmission of Zika. Our data confirms that the virus crosses the placenta and may cause congenital defects, including the death of the fetus.”

The second study was led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in coordination with the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology. Researchers injected the virus into the brains of fetuses at a critical stage of growth and development; the infected brains were significantly smaller and less developed than uninfected brains, proving that the disease inhibits brain growth.

Progress, but no solution yet

Both studies were performed on mice, and everyone agrees that further confirmation of the mechanism of action is required. However, understanding how an infection progresses is the first step towards halting that progression. While the efforts to develop a vaccine are ongoing, the National Institutes of Health recommends observing reasonable precautions in regions where exposure is possible.

Birth defects and birth injuries are devastating; children can require a lifetime of care and some families never recover from the emotional and financial toll. If your child suffered a birth injury, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and continuing care. The experienced and compassionate Tennessee birth injury lawyers at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Call 615.246.5549 or contact us today for a free consultation at one of our office locations in Nashville, Gallatin or Knoxville.