The New Unknown: The Zika Virus

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(CDC)

                      Perhaps the scariest thing about the Zika virus, now a trending topic, is what is not known about it. Generally, people infected with the virus recover within a week — but there are signs that the infection can lead to far worse fates, especially for babies born to infected women.

The virus is particularly virulent in much of Latin America, from Mexico to Brazil and the northern half of South America. The reports coming from these areas have concerned health care professionals in the United States.

The most common form of transmission is a bite from the common mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But researchers are now investigating the possibility that the virus can be spread from infected people through sexual contact, blood transfusion, pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Symptoms of infection include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis of the eyes. Only one in five people infected with the virus will get sick, and the usually mild symptoms last only several days to a week. Once infected, scientists think, a person is likely to be protected from future infections.

However, in May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert based on the Zika outbreak in Brazil, where there are reports of women giving birth to babies with birth defects- in particular, microcephaly, or smaller babies with small heads. Another possible health concern stemming from the Zika virus is the possible development of Guillain-Barre syndrome, where an infected person’s own immune system damages nerve cells and causes muscular weakness or even paralysis.

There is no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, and the CDC cautions that those traveling in infected regions use insect repellant and mosquito netting, stay in air conditioned settings, and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

This article was written by Ali Roberts.

 

 

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