How does the virus spread?
The virus mainly spreads by the Ae. aegypti mosquito found in the tropical and sub-subtropical areas of the Americas. However, due to climate change, the mosquito species known as Ae. albopictus has been moving into North America as well, it’s been found as far north as the Great Lakes. This mosquito usually bites in the morning and late afternoon.
Which Areas are Affected?
The Zika virus is mostly found within the tropical equatorial belt. Historically, it has existed in parts of Central Africa, India, and Indonesia. The 2015-2016 outbreak has caused the most concern in Central America and northern regions of South America. Since the outbreak, Zika has been reported in Colombia, French Guiana, Mexico and Venezuela as well as many more South and Central American countries. Nations worldwide have strongly advised people to rethink any travel plans they’ve had for affected regions.
What is microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a neurodevelopmental disorder linked to the Zika virus, typically defined by the sufferer having a head circumference two or three standard deviations below the mean average for his or her age and gender. Microcephaly can cause abnormal growth of the brain and is especially dangerous for newborn babies. The condition often leads to severely impaired intellectual development and can cause problems with motor functions and speech development.
Who is in danger?
Pregnant women have been identified as particularly in danger of the virus. Some countries are already advising women to avoid becoming pregnant at all. In El Salvador, Jamaica, Colombia and Ecuador, women have been advised to delay conception until at least 2018. In the US, officials have specifically advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika affected countries.
How do you know if you’ve been infected?
Even though there is no specific test widely available to identify the Zika virus, the disease’s symptoms are similar to those experienced during Dengue or Yellow fever. If you’re at all suspicious that you have been infected with Zika, a blood or tissue sample must be sent to an advanced laboratory within the first week of infection. Initial symptoms are usually mild with only 1 in 5 people infected experiencing any notable difference including fever, rashes and joint pain.