Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com
Zika is spreading! Don’t fall pregnant in a #Zika zone! Zika spread to the US!
Every day there’s a new batch of headlines about a mosquito-borne virus that most people have never even heard of. Well, here’s what we know now:
What is Zika?
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a virus that causes a mild illness known as Zika fever. The illness is similar to a mild form of dengue fever. There are no medicines or vaccinations to prevent or cure the virus, and the only way to treat it is with rest and symptom relief. Many of the cases of Zika have been in Brazil, a country gearing up to host the next summer Olympics.
Why is Zika dangerous?
If the illness caused by Zika is mild, why is the World Health Organisation (WHO) taking the virus so seriously? Zika has been linked to a birth condition called mirocephaly – a birth defect that causes shrunken brains in babies. To date, nearly 4000 babies! It seems that the greatest risk of microcephaly and malformations seems to be linked to infection during the first three months of pregnancy.
And it’s a real risk. So real that WHO has set up an emergency task team to try and tackle this fast-spreading virus. To give you an idea of how fast Zika is spreading: Brazil reported the first cases of Zika in South America in May 2015, and now WHO officials estimate that 1.5 million people had been infected in the country. The mosquito-borne virus has since spread to more than 20 countries in the region.
What you need to know
If you’re thinking of travelling to Mexico, Central America, South America, or Caribbean, then these tips are for you:
- If you are pregnant, or suspect that you may be, do not go.
- Protect yourself against mosquito bites – and note that the mosquito that carries Zika bites during the day!
For more travel information on Zika, see this CDC travel warning.