There has been a lot of panic and misinformation over the outbreak of the mysterious Zika virus.
Zika, the mysterious illness that afflicts newborns with microcephaly, is a growing concern in the world. While the first cases occurred in South America, it could soon spread to other countries.
You don’t have to have symptoms to have Zika virus. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the majority of people who contract the virus don’t have any symptoms, and the few who do, report fever, rashes and bodily pain.
The CDC stated recently that there are 426 reported travel-related Zika cases in the United States, and 36 are pregnant women. Eight were transmitted sexually. Thousands more have the virus abroad, but authorities in those countries are reporting that the rate of transmission is declining.
Some cases of Zika virus have sprung up in the U.S.. Most recently, an elderly Puerto Rican man died of complications from an autoimmune disorder linked to the virus. While this was an extreme case, it highlights the danger of Zika-related illnesses even if the virus itself is relatively short-term.
However, U.S. health officials feel that there is no reason for others to panic. Most cases in the U.S. are linked to people who traveled to areas where the virus is known to originate, such as the Caribbean and South America. At the moment, there is a public health alert warning travelers to be wary of traveling to such countries.
Some state governments are also taking initiatives to combat the spread of the virus before it becomes prevalent in the U.S. For example, in Baltimore, where 12 people have already contracted Zika, officials are asking travelers to inspect their luggage for any vessel of still water that mosquitoes are attracted to.
The highest risk for mosquito bites (and other vectors who could carry it) is during the summer months, especially in humid areas of the U.S. like the South and Californian coasts. The presence of mosquitoes and potential Zika virus cases also correlates with the time that most travelers go abroad. Researchers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NASA have mapped out the risk across the U.S., looking at factors like temperature and rainfall. At the moment, Congress is considering funding researchers nearly two billion dollars to prevent its spread.
While scientists are still working on defining the relationship between microcephaly and Zika, recent reports have stated that the brain damage caused by Zika is far worse than any other illness that causes microcephaly. Examples include damaging whole regions of the fetus’s brain and impairing vision.
For more information on the virus and how to best combat it, visit the World Health Organization’s website.
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