Zika Virus’s Imminent Threat

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Claire Payne, Assistant Content Editor and Staff Writer

On Monday, February 1st, WHO declared a “public health emergency on international concern,” regarding the new disease known as the Zika Virus. This virus is a mosquito-borne transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which also transmits diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever in mostly tropical regions.

It’s a mild infection as most cases showed no symptoms, but for those with symptoms only included fever, rash, and joint pain for one week. Currently, there is no vaccine and the only way to treat it is rest and stay hydrated. After about one week, the virus is out of your system. However, the main concern with this virus is that there has been a higher rate of women in Zika-affected regions giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a birth defect in which the baby’s head is smaller than expected. The CDC is not entirely sure if there is a connection between the two, but there does seem to be a possible relationship.

Microcephaly occurs when the brain doesn’t develop properly in the womb or if it stops growing after birth. The brain is damaged and has little lumps known as calcifications, which effect the ability to move. It also causes cognitive and intellectual impairment, as well as seizure disorders and sensory issues such as loss of vision and hearing.

The Zika virus first began to cause concern when in last May, the Pan American Health Organization published an alert about the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. There are an estimate of 1.5 million cases of the virus in Brazil. Since then, it has spread to more than two dozen countries. As for right now, the U.S. doesn’t have much to worry about, as there have been no locally transmitted Zika cases reported here, but there have been 31 reported cases in returning travelers.

However, just on February 2, the CDC confirmed that the Zika virus was transmitted sexually in Texas, when the patient had sexual intercourse with a partner who had recently returned from Venezuela and was infected. The CDC stressed that the woman was not pregnant, and there will be more guidance provided by the CDC soon. For now, all we can do, according to the CDC, is stay protected from mosquitoes if traveling to infected site by wearing long-sleeved clothing and stay in places with air conditioning or window screens.