WHAT IS ZIKA?
– First discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947
– name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered
– native mainly to tropical Africa, with outbreaks in Southeast Asia, and Pacific
– showed up in Brazil last year
– now seen in many Latin American countries and Caribbean islands
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
– transmitted through bites from same kind of mosquitoes that spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever
– not known to spread from person to person
– World Health Organisation says it is rapidly spreading in the Americas because it is new to the region, people aren’t immune to it, and the mosquito that carries it is just about everywhere
– Canada and Chile are the only places without this mosquito
ARE THERE SYMPTOMS?
– most people infected with Zika virus don’t get sick
– those that do get sick have mild symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – for no more than a week
– no specific medicine and no vaccine for it
WHY IS IT A CONCERN NOW?
– mounting evidence in Brazil linking Zika infection in pregnant women to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, where newborn’s head is smaller than normal and the brain may not have developed properly
– nearly 4000 cases have been tallied
– in Brazil, most mothers who had babies with microcephaly were apparently infected during the first trimester, but there is some evidence the birth defect can occur later in the pregnancy, CDC officials say
– also noted increase in reports of a nerve condition called Guillain-Barre that can cause paralysis
CAN THE SPREAD BE STOPPED?
– individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and long pants especially during daylight
– eliminating breeding spots and controlling mosquito populations can help prevent the spread of the virus