Facts about the Zika Virus

tiger-mosquito-49141_1920As the Zika virus continues to spread world wide – and with hundreds of imported cases here in the United States -here’s what every American needs to know about the virus and their risk.

With 40 million Americans traveling to Zika-affected countries every year, it’s only a matter of time before local transmission of the virus will begin, according to infectious-disease experts. It’s most likely to happen when an infected traveler returns to the U.S. and is bitten by a mosquito that’s capable of spreading disease.

Most people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

If a pregnant woman is infected, the Zika virus can be transmitted to her baby while she is pregnant or around the time of birth. Some, but not all, babies born to mothers infected with Zika can have the birth defect, Microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected and can lead to a number of health-related issues.

Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent Zika. If you’re in an area with disease-spreading mosquitoes, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, no matter how warm it is. According to the CDC, use insect repellents that contain one of the following ingredients: DEET (20% to 30% concentration is best, according to the CDC), picaridin, oil-of-lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane–diol or IR3535

Vaccine development is under way at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Scientists are tweaking a vaccine that was initially developed for the West Nile virus, and they expect to launch a safety trial for it in September 2016.

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