Outbreak of Zika Virus continues to spread

Livia Paula, Features Editor

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Latin American and Caribbean countries have been greatly affected by an infection known as the Zika virus, which is being transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Millions of people have been infected; and according to ABC News,  the virus has made its way into the U.S. as 19 residents were diagnosed with the virus in January after traveling abroad.

The Zika virus was first discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and was mostly common in African and Asian countries, until now. The Guardian reports that the Zika may have been brought to Brazil from a tourist during the 2014 World Cup or an international canoeing event that same year.

The symptoms of those infected are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes;  it usually does not require hospitalization. According to the NYT, only one of five people infected develops these symptoms.

The main concern surfaced after the virus was linked to a rare condition known as microcephaly, where newborn babies are born with small heads and severe brain damage. According to the NYT, scientists noticed the relationship between the virus and the condition as nearly 4,000 babies were reportedly born with microcephaly in Brazil since May 2015.

Other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean also reported an outstanding number of microcephaly cases. Governments and health officials from affected countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Jamaica are advising women to delay pregnancy, the NYT reported. In El Salvador, health officials are warning women  against  pregnancy until 2018.

According to Reuters, the U.S. had its first microcephaly case linked to the virus in Oahu, Hawaii in mid-January. The mother was living in Brazil since May 2015, and the baby was “likely infected in the womb.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C) has warned pregnant women not to travel to countries where the Zika virus has spread substantially.

The C.D.C’s travel alert applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

St. John’s junior Chloe Gage said that this is “such a heavy topic” to talk about due to its seriousness.

“It’s so sad that these mothers and their families cannot celebrate the joy of bringing new life into the world,” she said.

The Zika virus has also been linked to another rare condition known as Guillian-Barré, a nerve disorder that can cause paralysis and put victims on life-support. It is being investigated whether the Zika virus outbreak is to blame for the rapid rise in the numbers of Guillian-Barré cases.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said in a statement on Jan. 21 that health officials and research laboratories in Brazil and other countries are working to find a vaccine to prevent and fight the situation regarding the Zika virus and dengue, both transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Senior Kyaire Wynn said that he hopes and prays that countries with health standards like Brazil can “get control over this [situation] because it’s only going to continue to affect individuals who may reproduce and, then, affect their kids as well.”

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