Spread of Zika Virus Leads to Growing Concern

24253989800_8af7b2fee2_oBY HENRY CHOY

With current outbreaks in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, the Zika virus has the world’s attention as scientists investigate the association between a Zika infection and microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in an abnormally small head, which leads to incomplete brain development.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the United States as of Feb. 24.

A Virginia college student, who contracted the virus after traveling abroad to Central America, is among the recent cases.

The disease, which is spread to people primarily through the bites of an infected Aedes species mosquito, can cause fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and other symptoms similar to the flu. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. The majority of those infected are not hospitalized, and many do not realize they have contracted the Zika virus.

However, the Zika virus is especially dangerous for pregnant women because it can be spread to the fetus. Because of the link between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly, the CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women. Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika is spreading.

Each year, it is estimated 3 to 6 percent of infants worldwide are born with a life-impacting birth defect. On March 3, the CDC invites people around the world to participate in World Birth Defects Day by sharing support, stories and information about birth defects using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

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