The Zika Virus


What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is an infection related to the West Nile virus and yellow fever. The virus was discovered in Uganda in 1947, and is common in African and Asian countries. It was only recently discovered to have spread to Brazil and the Western Hemisphere in mid-2015.

Since reports in Brazil and other South American countries have surfaced, the Zika virus has attracted a ton of media coverage. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus to be a potential link to an array of birth defects. WHO estimates as many as four million people could be diagnosed with the virus by the end of 2016.

What birth defects are caused by Zika?

The main birth defect attributed to the Zika virus is microcephaly, which is the development of an abnormally small head in newborns. All of the defects connected to microcephaly can be traced back to a primary diagnosis of brain damage. The potential birth defects caused by microcephaly are:

  • Developmental delays
  • Intellectual deficits
  • Blindness
  • Hearing loss

Keep in mind that birth defects are not directly caused by Zika virus. Instead, they are caused by a “byproduct” of the infection (microcephaly).

Very few people experience any symptoms or long-term effects from the Zika virus. This makes detecting the infection nearly impossible without a molecular test. Also, because there are typically no symptoms in most people who are infected, including women who are pregnant, the risk for birth defects increases.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises women to avoid traveling to infected areas. If exposed to the virus, they should be tested for infection. If infected, the CDC recommends that pregnancy should be avoided for at least two years.

How is the Zika virus transmitted?

The Zika virus is a virus that attacks the blood. Its incubation period is 28 days and it is transmitted one of two ways:

  • Mosquito bite
  • Sexual contact with an infected partner (very rare)

Mosquitos of the Aedes type are the culprits for transmission and typically only live in warm climates. However, these mosquitos sometimes migrate to temperate areas during warm weather. They often bite during the day and can reproduce in as little as a tablespoon of water. The yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquito have been linked to spreading the most cases of Zika (both species of the Aedes genus).

Asian tiger mosquito.
Yellow fever mosquito.

Both of these mosquitos can be found in the United States as far north as Chicago and New York during the summer months. They are also common in Florida, Hawaii, and along the Gulf Coast, year round.

While the vast majority of infection is caused by transmission from a mosquito bite, three reports indicate infection from sexual contact. The most recent case involves a traveler who, after being infected in South America, came back to the United States and infected his partner. In all three cases, the men had reported genital pain.

The CDC suggests all men who have traveled to and from areas of infection provide a blood or tissue sample for testing and avoid sexual activity for the 28-day incubation period.

It is still not clear whether a woman can infect a man through sexual contact because all three cases have involved men passing the infection on to their partners. There is also some question on whether or not blood in the semen is a determining factor for the man to be infectious.

If you have traveled to Africa, Asia, or Central and South America and think you may have contracted the virus, have a blood or tissue sample tested right away and refrain from sexual activity.




Effects Of Malaria in Rwanda & Sierra Leone

Malaria – A disease that causes recurrent fever, caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes.

Transmission of the Malaria Parasite – Anopheles Mosquitoes

Malaria is transmitted among humans by female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Female mosquitoes take blood meals to carry out egg production, and such blood meals are the link between the human and the mosquito hosts in the parasite life cycle. The successful development of the malaria parasite in the mosquito (from the “gametocyte” stage to the “sporozoite” stage) depends on several factors. The most important is ambient temperature and humidity (higher temperatures accelerate the parasite growth in the mosquito) and whether the Anopheles survives long enough to allow the parasite to complete its cycle in the mosquito host (“sporogonic” or “extrinsic” cycle, duration 10 to 18 days). Differently from the human host, the mosquito host does not suffer noticeably from the presence of the parasites.

General Information

There are approximately 3,500 species of mosquitoes grouped into 41 genera. Human malaria is transmitted only by females of the genus Anopheles. Of the approximately 430 Anopheles species, only 30-40 transmit malaria (i.e. are “vectors”) in nature.

Geographic Distribution

Anophelines are found worldwide except in Antarctica. Malaria is transmitted by different Anopheles species, depending on the region and the environment.

Anophelines that can transmit malaria are found not only in malaria-endemic areas, but also in areas where malaria has been eliminated. The latter areas are thus constantly at the risk of re-introduction of the disease.

In sub – Saharan Africa, cases of malaria are reported each day and the death of children under the age of 5 is every 60 seconds across the region.

The effect of the disease has left many families pain-stricken and with little hope. Every day is a challenge for many, as communities battle the negative impacts of malaria on the economy and productivity and large amounts of money are spent in the fight against the disease. With the alarming rate of malaria cases in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, these are the regions most susceptible to the financial repercussions of treating the disease.

Sierra Leone

Malaria is one of the most serious public health problems in Sierra Leone today. It is the most common cause of illness and death in the country, and it is a disease that threatens anyone from all sectors of life. Malaria accounts for about 50% of outpatient visits and 38% of admissions. Malaria-related illnesses contribute to 38% and 25% of child deaths and all-ages mortality rates, respectively. The most vulnerable groups include children under 5 years old and pregnant women.

The 2014 Sierra Leone service availability and readiness assessment [2] reported that, over 24% of children under 5 years had malaria in the 2 weeks preceding the survey and that 26% of children under 5 years and 27& of pregnant women slept under insecticide-treated nets. The survey also reported that only 15% of children with fever received anti-malarial medicines within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms and less than 2% of children under 5 years received drugs within 24 hours due to proper care. [2]

Malaria control has progressed significantly, especially in the area of prevention. In November 2011, Sierra Leone conducted a week-long National Integrated Maternal and Child Health Campaign to provide health interventions by W.H.O, which included the distribution of over 3.2 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) to all households in the country. The campaign aimed to achieve 100% household possession of LLINs and it was a successful endeavor by the government of Sierra Leone, with the help of the World Health Organization. [3]

In June 2015, 6 months after the universal access campaign, 87% of households had at least one LLIN, and 67% had more than one LLIN. A total of 36% of households had at least one LLIN for every two household members, and 83% of households had at least one member sleeping under an LLIN. In addition, 73% of children under 5 years and 77% of pregnant women slept under an LLIN the night before the survey. Among households possessing at least on LLIN, 80% of children and 88% of pregnant women slept under an LLIN, which helped to decrease the cases of malaria in the country. With proper education on malaria transmission and prevention, 97% of household heads finally recognized mosquito bites as a main cause of malaria today. [3]

These results clearly represent a substantial improvement in LLIN coverage estimates when compared to the Malaria Indicator Survey conducted in 2016. There was a drastic reduction of malaria nation-wide. [3][4]

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has adopted strategies and interventions for malaria control in the country, as proposed by the Roll Back Malaria Change Initiative gold that was commissioned by the president of Sierra Leone, His Excellency President Ernest Bia Koroma. [3] The National Malaria Control Programme is the first point of contact in the Ministry for all technical matters relating to malaria and is responsible for the coordination of malaria control activities in the country. In accordance with the on-going decentralization process, the government deems it fit to fight malaria at all costs and with the help of WHO.

At district level, coordination is carried out by the various district health management teams in collaboration with local district councils, along with the help of the traditional head of each fiefdom. At community level, the trained health worker serves as a link between the programme, district health management teams and chiefdom/village development committees. [5]

In addition to resources provided by the Government of Sierra Leone, malaria control is funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria and that of the World Health Organization as the frontrunner.

By Dr. Sankoh of Connut Hospital.


  1. Sierra Leone health and demographic survey, 2016: key findings (pdf 3.15Mb). Calverton, Maryland, Statistics Sierra Leone and ICF Macro, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sierra Leone service availability and readiness assessment (pdf 4.9Mb). Government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Sierra Leone LLIN universal access campaign post-campaign ownership and use survey )pdf 941.6 kb). government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, 2011.
  4. Sierra Leone survey report: coverage of malaria control interventions in Sierra Leone. Government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, 2010.
  5. National Malaria Control Program, i policy. Government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, 2005.

Malaria Statistics for Rwanda

What are the malaria statistics for Rwanda?

The following statistics are taken from the World Health Organization (

  • Approximately 90% of Rwandans are at risk of malaria.
  • Malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Rwanda, and is responsible for up to 50% of all outpatient visits.
  • In 2005, Rwanda reported 991,612 malaria cases.
  • In 2006, malaria was responsible for 37% of outpatient consultations and 41% of hospital deaths, of which 42% were children under five.

Thus, in our quest to making the world a better place, we should not forget to get rid of that which inhibits our progress by its negative effect on humanity. Let’s join hands in fighting together against the malaria epidemic through our actions today for a brighter tomorrow.