Zika virus sweeps the nation

zika-babies

Photo Courtesy of CDC/Wikimedia Commons

By Caroline Cho

The Zika virus broke out in Uganda in 1947 and has only recently been documented in the Western Hemisphere. The mosquito-borne virus was first recognized as a real threat to South American countries in 2015. Soon after, several people in the southern-most regions of the United States were suspected of carrying the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus, which is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, can be transmitted during pregnancy and can be detrimental to the fetus’ health.

The CDC cautions that the virus “causes a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, and … defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth.” The infected infants are born with significantly smaller heads and are thus prone to more infections, diseases, and fatalities.

Since Zika victims hardly show any symptoms, physicians can only confirm accurate diagnoses with urine or blood tests.

“Zika virus is found more in people who have been travelling into and out of the country. There is a good possibility that some do have the virus, but many do not show symptoms. However, we do not know the long term effect at this point,” science department chair Beth Cox said.

Unfortunately, the fast rate of transmission suggests that many California residents have been diagnosed as well. The CDC reports 137 cases, all of which were associated with travelling to and from another Zika-infected country. None contracted the virus locally.

“The Zika virus is probably not as prominent in states closer to the ‘hot-spot’ of the Zika virus, but it should not be an issue that we should just ignore,” junior Sydney Song said.

Although there are no existing vaccinations, the United States government has suggested methods of transmission prevention. Officials advise that people stay away from humid freshwater zones where mosquitoes thrive, to wear long clothing in order to cover any exposed skin, and to use insect repellants.

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