The Zika Virus is Coming to the US – Are You Prepared?

Could the Zika Virus Come to the US? Unfortunately the answer is yes, it is on the way.

U.S. public health officials are preparing for the arrival of Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection that has spread to 22 countries and territories in the Americas and poses particular danger to pregnant women.

Director-general Margaret Chan told members of WHO’s executive board in Geneva that the spread of the mosquito-borne disease had gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.

“Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively. As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region,” she said, promising that the WHO would act fast.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is like dengue and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms.

The virus is expected to spread to the United States and every country in the Western hemisphere where Aedes mosquitoes, which spread the virus, are known to live. According to the Pan American Health Organization,  Aedes mosquitoes live in every Western hemisphere country but Canada and Chile.

What you need to know about the Zika Virus

  • What is the Zika virus?
    • A tropical infection new to the Western Hemisphere.
  • How is the virus spread?
    • Mosquitoes, but not every species.
  • How does Zika cause brain damage in infants?
    • Experts are only beginning to figure it out.
  • What countries should pregnant women avoid?
    • About two dozen destinations mostly in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
  • How do I know if I’ve been infected? Is there a test?
    • It’s often a silent infection, and hard to diagnose.
  • I’m pregnant and I recently visited a country with Zika virus. What do I do?
    • Some women should get blood tests, and just about all should get ultrasound scans.
  • Does it matter when in her pregnancy a woman is infected with Zika virus?
    • Earlier in pregnancy seems to be more dangerous.
  • Should infants be tested?
    • Microcephaly is not the only birth defect caused by the virus.
  • Is there a treatment?
  • Is there a vaccine? How should people protect themselves?
    • Protection is difficult in mosquito-infested regions.
  • If Zika virus has been in Africa and Asia for decades, why wasn’t the microcephaly problem detected earlier?
    • Until now, the virus never struck such a large population without immunity.

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