Sunday, October 9, 2016

In Rare Cases Zika May Be Passed Through Tears or Sweat

At the Foundation Fighting Blindness where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO, the latest research into eye disease is supported in the hopes of finding cures. Other issues of interest to scientists are the causes of eye diseases, how they are contracted, and how their spread can be minimized or halted altogether.

In this vein it is of interest to investigate what illnesses can be contracted through contact with tears. The Zika virus has recently been in the news as an illness that is transferred through mosquitoes. But in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine there was a discussion of an unusual case of the death, in the United States, of a patient with Zika, and how a second patient may have caught the illness from contact with either the patient’s tears or sweat.

The person who died was a 73-year-old man who was the first known death in the US from Zika. He first began to show symptoms of the illness after returning to the US from a trip to Mexico, a place known to have Zika. The second person is a 38-year-old man who came to visit the first man in the hospital. He reported that while he was visiting the first man he had wiped away his tears and assisted the nurses to move him into a more comfortable position on the bed.

About a week after the first man died the second man developed water, red eyes, a common symptom of Zika. After testing for the virus, it was clear the man did, indeed, have Zika. Luckily he recovered with only mild symptoms developing.

The letter in the NEJM discusses two mysteries: Why did the first man die, since deaths from Zika are quite rare; and how did the second man contract the virus? The letter suggests that perhaps unusually high levels of Zika in the first man’s blood explained both the death and the possibility of infected sweat and/or tears.

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