Many people wants to know more about the illness that has spread rapidly through South and Central America. It’s called Zika virus.
“Last year the disease was detected in the Americas, where it is spreading explosively,” Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, said at a special briefing in Geneva.
Margaret Chan said: “The possible links have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming as it places a heartbreaking burden on families and communities.”
There are already confirmed cases in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the disease will reach all of Central, South, and North America, with the exception of two countries (Canada and Chile). It is believed that mosquitoes are responsible for transmission. Zika can also be spread through a blood infusion, if the blood given contains Zika.
The symptoms of this disease are similar like a flu, including fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Only 1 in 5 people exposed to the virus actually develop the disease, and generally they are well again within several days to a week.
Zika virus is exponentially more dangerous for pregnant women. It can result in severe birth defects in their babies, most commonly microcephaly. The babies with this disease are born with a much smaller head than normal and the brain does not develop normally in the womb. It can be accompanied by other problems such as seizures, vision loss, and mental retardation.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC): “We will see cases reported in the United States in larger numbers,” says Dr. Beth Bell of the CDC. She attributes this statement largely to travelers, and adds, “It’s quite unlikely we will see widespread transmission in the United States.”
For now, we suggest all women who are pregnant or may be pregnant should postpone travel plans to the affected countries. Four countries in the Americas, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica, have issued a recommendation that women try to avoid pregnancy during the outbreak.
There is still no vaccine for Zika virus. It can only be avoided if mosquito bites are avoided. It is recommended to wear long sleeves and pants, to limit exposed skin and using mosquito repellant. In addition to commercially available mosquito sprays, several essential oils are known to keep mosquitoes at bay. Citronella, lemongrass, and eucalyptus, among others, are helpful in repelling mosquitoes naturally.
Researchers hope to learn more about the virus and how specifically it affects the unborn child. Until then, many are rethinking their vacation plans to Jamaica.