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Zika Virus Raises Global Concerns

By Dan Gannon; For The Clock
On February 23, 2016

Zika Virus Raises Global Concerns 

 

Dan Gannon

For The Clock

drgannon@plymouth.edu 

 

Hawaii has become the latest victim of the deadly Zika virus with Governor David Ige declaring a state of emergency. The virus, which has already affected thousands of residents in South America, now seems to be stretching past borders and into the United States.

Little is known about the virus as the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) is still trying to develop a vaccination for the virus. Here’s what we do know: mosquitos carry the virus, and once a person is infected they develop the “Zika fever.” Not only can one contract the virus from mosquitos, now recent reports, including one from Dallas County, Texas, indicate that the virus can be spread through sexual contact.

The biggest concern is among pregnant women, who often unwillingly transfer the virus to their unborn child. The W.H.O. reports that 5,000 pregnant women are currently infected with the disease in Colombia alone. The 22,000 confirmed cases make Colombia the second highest number of confirmed cases behind Brazil.

Health officials believe there is a strong link between the virus and microcephaly, when a baby’s head is smaller than average for age and sex. This can lead to an underdeveloped brain and future health problems.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) believes Zika might also be responsible for Gullain Barre Syndrome (GBS). GBS attacks the immune and nervous system leading to weakened legs, arms, and upper body. In extreme cases GBS can cause paralysis. Since the outbreak started gaining momentum in late 2015, there has been a small increase with babies being born with GBS; however, the W.H.O. has yet to confirm if Zika is linked to this.

As of right now, there is no cure for the virus and the best line of defense for the disease appears to be insect repellent. The W.H.O. urges pregnant women to refrain from traveling to parts of the world infected by the virus. Officials have even suggested women living in South America consider not having a baby for at least two years. If you travel to an infected area and develop a fever, seek medical attention immediately. Stay informed. 

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