What is the Zika Virus and Should You Worry About Mosquitos?

In recent months, chatter about the Zika Virus has people all over the United States worried about what the recent outbreak in the Western Hemisphere could mean for their health and that of future of generations. The tropical infection is new to the Western World, and is transmitted by mosquitoes similar to those like yellow fever and the West Nile virus.

An outbreak in Brazil in May of 2015, led to the wider spread of the virus across the Western Hemisphere. The virus itself has shown to cause no symptoms, and no lasting harm, except for those who become infected while pregnant, or who become pregnant quickly after being infected. Women who are pregnant and become infected have reported a temporary development of paralysis after being exposed to the virus.

Zika is spread by a species of mosquitos that can breed in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap. Most Zika cases have been spread by the yellow fever mosquito, which usually bite during the day. This species is only common along the Gulf Coast of Florida, as well as in Hawaii.

In addition to the side effects to the mother, one of the greatest reasons the Zika Virus has people concerned is the birth defects that have been linked to the infection. The possibility that Zika causes microcephaly in infants – the condition where babies have unusually small heads and damaged brains first came about in October 2015, when doctors in northern Brazil noticed an unusual surge in babies with the condition.

Several reports have now shown that when the Zika virus comes in contact with the placenta, it attacks the fetal nerve cells, many of which develop into the brain.

While experts and scientists believe that the majority of Zika infections are transmitted by mosquitos, the virus can also be sexually transmitted. In March, more than a dozen cases of sexually transmitted Zika infections had been reported across four countries. In each of the cases, the infection had been transmitted from a man who had traveled in an infected country, to a woman who had not.

Zika Virus is not one to have you worried about mosquitoes unless you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. The infection is not predominant in the U.S. yet, so it’s important that you get checked by a doctor after you visit a region that is experiencing an outbreak. Your doctor will advise you in safe sex practices, and potential ways to avoid the virus if you are hoping to become pregnant. If you are currently pregnant, it is strongly advised that you stay out of infected regions, and avoid sexual content with a partner who has traveled to a Zika region prior to their evaluation by a doctor.

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