The United States is experiencing a heightened concern with the Zika Virus as it has now spread to 30 states reaching as far north as New York and San Francisco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Zika virus is transferred through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The virus has been notable for causing problems for many and especially for pregnant women as it can lead to microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized heads.
The virus began in Brazil last May, but has quickly globalized into an epidemic that has been giving health officials across the globe reasons for concern.
While the virus causes minor symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) for most people who are infected, Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a neurological disorder that can result in paralysis.
The World Health Organization stated that since 2015, there have been 42 countries who have already seen their first outbreaks.
Experts are tracking the close relatives of the virus, chikungunya and dengue, as they have similar clustering patterns, but research methods are currently underfunded according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Obama administration recently requested that Congress grant them a $1.9 billion supplement to prevent further outbreaks in the United States, but have yet to reach a final decision. .
Officials are advising that pregnant women should stay away from active Zika areas, as the risk is especially dangerous for them and their unborn children. They have also recommended that people stay indoors if possible as mosquitos do not fare well in air conditioned and screened homes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently predicting hundreds of thousands possible infections in Puerto Rico that will need a series of interventions to manage the virus. Dr. Tom Frieden said:
“Our top priority will be to protect pregnant women and the developing fetus. We can do that by—for women in parts of the U.S. like Puerto Rico where Zika is spreading—helping them reduce the likelihood they will get bitten by an infected mosquito, and for women who choose not to get pregnant, increasing their access to voluntary affective contraception. Right now that access is very low in Puerto Rico.”
To help reduce the spread of Zika remember to fight the bite. See a doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms and protect yourself from being bitten if you do have the virus, as you do not want to allow mosquitoes to transfer the it from you to someone else.