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    What is the Zika virus?
    January 29, 2016, 4:58 am

    The World Health Organization says as many as four million people may be infected by the virus in the Americas this year [Xinhua]

    The World Health Organization says as many as four million people may be infected by the virus in the Americas this year [Xinhua]

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, the Zika disease is a virus spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

    It was first reported in a monkey living in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947, and spread to humans in Africa and Asia within a few years.

    The Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then carries the virus to another person it bites. The virus is transmitted from a mother to a child during pregnancy or birth.

    Where is the Aedes mosquito common?

    The origins of the Aedes mosquito can be traced to the hot and humid climates of many African countries. However, it has since migrated and can be found in most tropical countries, such those in South America, as well as in such states as Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

    How is it spread?

    Travel is considered the riskiest way to contract the virus. People traveling from one country may get bit and return home with the virus. A mosquito bites them there and the virus spread.

    However, cold countries are considered at lowest risk as mosquitoes thrive in warm, humid weather.

    What are the symptoms?

    According to the WHO and CDC most people may not even know that they are infected. Only about 20 per cent of infected people actually get sick, and those that do show very mild symptoms.

    These symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). “Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito,” the CDC says.

    The Zika virus is not known to cause serious illness or death.

    Why are pregnant women at risk?

    Microcephaly, where a baby is born with a much smaller head than average, occurs during pregnancy and has been linked to the Zika virus. Microcephaly can cause brain defects, and mental and physical disabilities.

    In May, Brazilian health officials began to report a spike in babies born with Microcephaly. Brazil had eradicated the disease in the 1950s, but it has gradually returned.

    An alert was issued after the case was first reported, but numbers have swelled considerably since October.

    Pregnant women in South America, primarily Brazil, are being cautioned against getting pregnant for at least three years. Pregnant women elsewhere are being warned to avoid travelling to infected countries.

    Is there a cure?

    There is no vaccine for Zika virus, but some countries like Brazil and the US are experimenting using genetics to prevent the mosquito itself from carrying the disease.

    Three major pharmaceutical companies are working on developing a vaccine. But health care experts say that a cure could be within grasp anywhere between one and 10 years from now.

    The BRICS Post

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