Two studies were recently released about the effects of the Zika virus on adults. One study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases details three cases of hearing loss in adults infected with Zika. The other study, published in The Lancet, described a case of eye tissue inflammation in a man infected with Zika while traveling to Puerto Rico. With attention being placed on the effects of Zika on pregnant women and their unborn children, not much news has been published about the effects of Zika on non-pregnant adults.
The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, mainly on those species active in the daytime. First isolated in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947, it is related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. It has been known to occur along the equator from Africa to Asia. Since 2007, the virus has spread across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas.
The virus causes mild symptoms similar to dengue fever. With no particular treatment, the Zika virus currently has no vaccines. In pregnant women, the virus can cause microcephaly, severe malformations, and other congenital disabilities in their unborn child. In adults, the virus may result in Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. However, with these two studies, Zika may cause more harm to adults.
The study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the Brazilian researchers detailed three cases of hearing the loss in adults with the Zika virus. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), these three cases were the first “acute hearing losses described during the current epidemic that began in Brazil. The first patient entered the hospital due to hearing loss approximately two weeks after suffering a fever, joint pain, and itching. While the hearing loss only lasted four days, testing on the patient showed a mild hearing loss in the right ear.
The second case, a woman, had bilateral moderate hearing loss three days after experiencing dizziness, itching, and myalgia [muscle pain], and headache. After three weeks, the patient’s hearing returned. The last patient had tinnitus and intense hearing loss for two days. Two weeks before she lost her hearing, the patient also had dizziness, itching, muscle pain, and headaches. After three weeks, her hearing returned. The authors of the study reported that there might be some indication that temporary hearing loss may be a “specific manifestation” of the Zika virus. Further research would be needed to confirm this theory.
The Lancet published the other article regarding eye tissue inflammation or bilateral posterior uveitis. The patient is an American infected with the virus while traveling to Puerto Rico. The authors of the study wrote that after returning home, the patient developed chills, muscle pain, and a skin rash. Two weeks after being diagnosed, the patient had moderate symptoms of red eyes without discharge and seeing flashes of light or photopsias. An eye exam done on the man showed mild ocular lesions which resolved itself within three weeks after given treatments. According to Tech Times, the researchers believe that “this is the first reported case” of eye tissue inflammation related to Zika.
The Journal of Clinical Microbiology suggested that urine testing could be helpful when diagnosing the Zika virus. Eighty patients were tested for the virus in New York at the beginning of 2016. The researchers collected urine and serum within four weeks of the appearance of symptoms. Further testing is necessary to see if urine testing could be helpful in diagnosing the Zika virus.
By Cheryl Werber