The Zika Virus Outbreak

South America and Abroad — Every so often we hear about a disease that is spreading around the world. There was the Avian “Bird” Flu, then Ebola, and now Zika. Here are the 5 Fast Facts of what you need to know about the Zika Virus outbreak.

1The Disease Spreads Through the Bite of Infected Aedes Mosquitoes

Credit: Jim Gathany / WikiCommons / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When it comes to the main cause of contracting Zika virus, it can be attributed to the bite of an infected Aedes mosquitoes. This species of mosquito is found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including most countries in central and south America, which has helped increase the rapid spread of the disease.

Their breeding grounds are mostly found in containers filled with water along ponds and other bodies of water. They are at their most active during the hours around sunrise and sunset.

Zika is spread through these mosquitoes after they have bitten an already infected person, as they then transfer the infected blood into any other people that they bite thereafter.

The virus can also be sexually transmitted through infected individuals, although this is currently less common.

2There are Little Signs and Symptoms When Infected

It can be hard to determine whether or not you are infected with Zika virus due to the mild symptoms from the infection. This includes fever, headache, rash, muscle and joint pains, and in some cases pink eye.

Not only are these mild symptoms that can be mistaken for many other illnesses and infections, but only 1 in 5 people with Zika infections actually exhibit these symptoms, and those that do should see the symptom pass within a week or so.

Many people will be unsure whether or not they have Zika due to these mild symptoms, but if they coincide with a visit to a tropical or subtropical country, then there could be a connection.

3The Infection Remains Incurable

Credit: World Health Organization

There is currently no cure for Zika virus, although experts have been working diligently on vaccines and trials are expected to roll out soon – this doesn’t guarantee a that a vaccine will in fact be produced from these trials, but it should be a step in the right direction.

This means preventative measures are still vitally important to curb the spread of the virus. Anyone travelling to countries with cases of the virus should avoid it unless absolutely necessary, and those that do should cover up as much of their skin as possible with long-sleeved tops and pants, as well as making use of insect repellents, mosquito nets etc.

4It Has Been Linked With Birth Defects

There have been some worrying connections between pregnant women that contract the virus. Those infected that are pregnant could be at a higher risk of contracting birth defects, mainly microcephaly, which is a congenital condition that impairs brain development and shrunken heads.

This in turn can lead to serious developmental issues such as mental retardation, delays in movement, growth and speech, and even possibly death. Why and when this occurs during the pregnancy is still unknown.

While the connection between the virus and birth defects are not yet confirmed, there is strong evidence to suggest that there is indeed a connection between the two.

5There Are Now Reported Cases of Local Transmissions In the United States

While there have been thousands of confirmed cases of the Zika virus among American citizens, virtually none of these cases are a result of local transmission. That means that the infected people have caught it from a country with areas that are already affected by the spread of the virus.

Because Zika virus is mostly spread through the Aedes mosquito, it has managed to limit the spreading locally through mosquito bites, and Florida remains the only state with any cases of this.

There have only been 14 mosquito-borne cases reported as of August 17, 2016.

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