Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, a new mosquito-borne virus that is connected to a neurological birth disorder and that is rapidly spreading around the world.
WHO estimates that between three million and four million people throughout the Americas will be infected with the Zika virus over the course of this year. The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and has broken out in 29 countries so far. Because it is connected to a neurological birth disorder, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that pregnant women not travel to these countries. In fact, health officials in these countries have even begun recommending that female citizens avoid getting pregnant for upwards of two years. The U.S. Defense Department is currently offering pregnant employees and their beneficiaries that are stationed in affected countries voluntary relocation. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, called the viral outbreak a pandemic in progress. The following are important facts that everyone should know about the Zika virus:
- What is it?—The Zika virus is similar to the yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. However, there are no vaccines or medicines to treat the Zika virus as of yet.
- What does it cause?—The virus is linked to microcephaly, which is a neurological disorder that causes abnormally small heads in newborns, which can lead to severe developmental problems or even death. There were only 146 cases of microcephaly in 2014. Since the outbreak, there have been 404 cases since November 2015 in Brazil alone. Learn more about the condition by reading this article about microcephaly.
- How is it spread?—The most common way that it’s spread is through Aedes mosquito bites. However, the CDC reported that the latest outbreak was transmitted via sex.
Be sure to avoid traveling to areas currently dealing with a serious Zika outbreak. Here at the Benefits Store, we aim to keep you updated on all the newest health-related news.