What You Should Know About the Zika Virus

shutterstock_323400437The Zika virus has been a hot subject in the media because more and more cases outside of Africa have been reported. If you are worried about this illness, you should know that it isn’t very serious and often has no symptoms. However, the disease can be devastating to pregnant women. If you are worried about Zika, check out these three important facts.

The Virus Is Devastating to Pregnant Women

Women who are pregnant are at the most risk because if they become infected, their babies could be born with serious birth defects. Most importantly, it is linked to microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition that causes unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns. However, other neurological defects are also possible. Women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, should avoid areas with possible Zika virus outbreaks at all cost. The Zika virus can be transmitted sexually, so men who have recently visited at-risk areas could infect a woman who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Travel-Associated Cases Have Been Reported

While there have been no reports of mosquito-borne Zika virus infections within the US, some US territories have had infections, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa. There have also been cases of US citizens traveling to at-risk countries and becoming infected. Areas that should be avoided if you want to steer clear of the Zika virus include Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central America and South America.

It Could Easily Spread to the US

Although mosquito-borne cases haven’t been reported yet in the US, it is possible. Zika is largely spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitos. Both the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) are known to spread the disease and are common in the US. The yellow fever mosquito is most likely to spread Zika and is common in Florida and Hawaii. The Asian tiger mosquito also spreads it but it is less likely. This mosquito has been known to travel north to New York and Chicago in summer.

As long as you aren’t pregnant or trying to get pregnant, the Zika virus isn’t a big threat. There is no vaccine or cure yet for the Zika virus, but people who contract the disease usually have mild symptoms, and rest is the best treatment.

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