Until now, there have been no recorded deaths caused by the recent Zika outbreak.
On Friday, Colombia’s health minister said — preemptively and perhaps incorrectly — that there was a “causal connection” between Zika, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and three deaths that occurred in the country, BBC reports.
Zika, the mosquito-borne infection that’s been associated with a higher number of cases of a birth defect called microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome has still not been scientifically shown to have a causal relationship with either condition, meaning we do not yet know for sure that one thing is causing the other or vice versa.
Still, the virus is becoming a bit scarier, especially since once infected, only about one in five people with Zika ever shows symptoms, which most commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.
The three deaths in Colombia occurred after the people had symptoms of Guillain-Barre, a rare and temporary neurological condition in which the immune system attacks part of the nervous system. The condition is usually not deadly.
So exactly what caused the deaths, then, is still unknown. Despite this, the head of Columbia’s National Health Institute, Martha Lucia Ospina, told the BBC:
“The world is realising that Zika can be deadly. The mortality rate is not very high, but it can be deadly.”
Ospina also said several other deaths are being investigated for possible Zika connections.
There has been at least one other documented case of a person who died after contracting the Zika virus. A 15-year-old girl with sickle cell disease died shortly after being infected with Zika in October 2015.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, though the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases expects early trials of a potential vaccine to start by the end of this year.
Zika is carried by mosquitoes, namely the Aedes aegypti, a tropical bug that’s great at transmitting diseases like yellow fever, dengue, and Zika. They are daytime mosquitoes, which means they bite during the day and like hanging out in warm, damp, heavily-populated locations. The best way to prevent Zika infection is to prevent mosquito bites, the CDC says.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.