The Zika virus, which has only recently moved beyond Africa and Southeast Asia, has already had debilitating effects in the Americas. It’s especially problematic in Brazil, where it’s appears to be connected to a serious birth defect.
Now, after a baby born with brain abnormality in Hawaii tested positive for the virus, the CDC has come up with guidelines for how to identify the disease and monitor women who are pregnant during the outbreak.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito responsible for spreading dengue, yellow fever, and a whole host of other tropical infectious diseases. The mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected people, according to the CDC. Originally identified in 1947 in Uganda, Zika was relatively unknown until 2007, when there was an outbreak of the virus in Micronesia.
Brazil, one of the areas hit hardest by the disease, had about 10 times the normal amount of babies born with a condition called microcephaly in 2015. This birth defect, in which the brain is abnormally small, was often found after the mother had Zika virus-like symptoms early in the pregnancy. Researchers still aren’t sure whether the virus causes the birth defects, but there does appear to be a link.
Here’s a flow chart of what the CDC is looking for:
In other words, if you’re pregant and you’ve travelled to an area where Zika virus has been transmitted, talk with your physician. If you show symptoms consistent with Zika (fever, muscle aches, rash, or pink eye), get tested.
And regardless of how your test goes, your baby should also be tested for signs of microcephaly or deposits of calcium in the brain. Even if the foetus doesn’t show one of those abnormalities, the CDC recommends for babies to be monitored continuously.
Since there is neither vaccine nor antiviral treatment for Zika, the CDC recommends anyone with symptoms focus on relieving those symptoms.
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