Zika Virus a Threat to Most of U.S.
Brazil, host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, is in the midst of an outbreak of the Zika virus.
Cases, though, are starting to appear in the U.S. Our study of this virus, and how it affects us, continues to be an ongoing endeavor.
The Zika virus is common throughout the tropics, spread by certain mosquitoes. They bite an infected person and then transfer the virus by biting uninfected people.
The virus can also be spread from men to women by sex. Transfusions of infected blood can also spread it.
Only about one in five of those infected with the Zika virus have any symptoms.
Those who do can have a fever, rash, headache, conjunctivitis, muscle aches and joint pain. The symptoms usually go away in less than a week.
There is evidence to show that the virus can trigger an autoimmune (and usually reversible) paralysis known as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Hardly anyone ever dies from Zika.
The biggest risk from Zika is to unborn children.
Approximately 1% of babies born to women infected with the virus in the first trimester of pregnancy will have microcephaly.
They will have a small cranium and multiple developmental delays. Other brain anomalies in infants can potentially be caused by Zika virus, as well.
Zika has the potential to infect people in large areas of the U.S.
The main species of mosquito that spreads it, Aedes aegypti, is found throughout the southern U.S., including in Kentucky.
Another mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, also has the potential to spread the virus and is found in even more of the U.S.
Between the two species, about two-thirds of the U.S. could be susceptible to the spread of Zika.
Since there is no treatment for Zika or no vaccine to prevent it at this time, the best way to prevent infection is by avoiding exposure to it.
Pregnant women should avoid travel to areas where the virus is currently being spread.
Standing water should be eliminated or changed at least weekly, since this is where mosquitoes often breed.
Skin should be covered when going outside or at least protected with insect repellents.
Fortunately, it appears at this time that women who are infected with Zika who are not pregnant do not have an increased risk of having babies later who have microcephaly.
A vaccine against the virus is currently in development in the U.S.