An untreatable virus that’s begun making global headlines is posing a growing threat to the majority of countries in the Americas.
On Tuesday, President Obama voiced his concerns for the Zika virus here in the US, calling for more research into ways to stop the spread of the disease.
So far, the disease has been identified in a number of states in people who recently travelled to areas where the virus is being transmitted locally. Local transmission of the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, has been documented in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as well.
Once infected, only about 20% of people with Zika ever show symptoms, which most commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. There is no vaccine or treatment available for the virus.
One reason Zika is troubling is because it has been linked with birth defects. After some mothers showed symptoms of the virus during their pregnancy, their babies were born with abnormally small brains, a condition known as microcephaly. The CDC recently published a set of working guidelines for pregnant women travelling to areas where local transmission is happening. Thes include monitoring themselves and their unborn children.
In the US, no local transmission of the virus has been documented yet — so far it has only been diagnosed in people who’ve recently travelled to Zika hot spots.
What you need to know about Zika in the US:
- There has not been any local transmission via mosquitoes in the US yet, though the WHO forecasts that could be a possibility.
- The virus is spread via a type of mosquito called Aedes aegypti, which is prevalent in most American countries, excluding Canada and continental Chile.
- The first reported case of a traveller with Zika in the US was in Texas.
- Since then, a pregant woman gave birth to a baby with brain abnormalities after likely being infected with the virus while visiting Brazil.
- Other recent travellers have tested positive for the Zika virus everwhere from New York to Los Angeles and outside the US in places like Denmark.
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