What’s the deal with Zika?

What is Zika, exactly?

Zika is a disease caused by a flavivirus and is in the same “family” as the West Nile virus and Yellow Fever. Although Zika isn’t a new virus, there has recently been a spike in Zika in pregnant women throughout Central and South America. Zika is usually a very mild illness, and its most common symptoms are fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes. BBC, however, reports that only one in five people with the virus develop symptoms at all. It is extremely rare for people to die of Zika, and most people don’t even get sick enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.

 

How does Zika spread?

Zika is generally spread by Aedes mosquitoes, common disease carriers, through their bite. Aedes mosquitoes are found throughout North, Central, and South America (except Canada and Chile). Additionally, pregnant women can transmit Zika to their unborn babies during pregnancy. It is currently unknown how long a person can transmit the virus to mosquitoes and to babies after becoming infected, says BBC.

There have also been reported cases of Zika being transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person, but this is extremely rare. BBC reports that as a precaution, recent travelers to countries where Zika is prevalent are encouraged to use condoms or refrain from sexual activity for a month after returning home.

 

Why is it so dangerous?

The Zika outbreak has been declared a “global public health emergency” by the World Health Organization, due to the fact that, despite the rapid increase in virus prevalence, there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Zika isn’t really dangerous for adults; there have been many cases in the US but all have recovered. Some recent reports suggest a correlation between Zika virus and the serious birth defect, microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s brain is abnormally small. The link between Zika and microcephaly has neither been extensively researched nor has it been even close to proven, reports US News. However, the CDC has recommended that women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant take special precautions in regards to protecting themselves from mosquitoes.

 

Do I need to be worried?

The bottom line is no, as long as you are being safe and taking precautions when you need to. Unless you are traveling to Central or South America and plan on having unprotected sex and then getting pregnant while you’re there, you do NOT need to be worried. Seriously, don’t freak out! There is a really unlikely chance of you ever contracting Zika, and an even smaller chance that it will be a bigger deal than even something as insignificant as the Pres Plague.

 

All information was taken from CDC.org unless otherwise noted.