What The CDC Is Saying About Zika
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Health and Wellness

What The CDC Is Saying About Zika

Everything you need to know.

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What The CDC Is Saying About Zika
The Atlantic

The media has been abuzz with Zika-related news in the last year, especially now that the virus has reached Florida. However, you may be surprised to know that this is not a “new” illness. It was actually first discovered in 1947. Here you can find a timeline constructed by the World Health Organization from its beginning in Uganda all the way up to information from February 2016.

As you might imagine, since 1947 many scientific breakthroughs have been made to better understand the Zika virus. First, let’s start with the most commonly known fact about Zika. It’s bad to have it while you're pregnant. Maybe you’ve seen some frightening pictures of babies born from mothers who had Zika while they were pregnant. Well, the truth is that you should be frightened. The CDC has definitively linked women who had Zika during their pregnancy to the occurrence of a severe birth defect called microcephaly. This is when a baby is born with an abnormally smaller head than an otherwise healthy baby. It means that the brain is not fully developed which can cause seizures, developmental delay, intellectual disability, and other sensory and motor neural problems.

Furthermore, according to the CDC, “the Brazil Ministry of Health has reported an increased number of people who have been infected with [the] Zika virus who also have [Guillain-Barré Syndrome].” The link between the two is still being investigated, but the CDC reports that it is “very likely” that Zika triggers Guillain-Barré.

So what is Guillain-Barré Syndrome or GBS? It is an illness in which your immune system damages your nerve cells. This causes muscle weakness in the arms and legs, sometimes in the face and throat muscles. In severe cases it also impairs your ability to breathe, and these symptoms can last from weeks to months. The CDC reports that most people fully recover, but some suffer permanent damage such as paralysis. Additionally, 1 out of 20 people infected have died. If it makes you feel any better, only about 0.001-0.002 percent of the population of the United States is diagnosed annually.

However, just because microcephaly and GBS occur in relatively small numbers doesn’t mean that we should dismiss it. Zika is still spreading. As of July 27, 2016 only four states in the US have reported zero cases of Zika: Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska. In total, again as of July 27, 2016, there have been 1,658 cases in the US, 5 of which have resulted in GBS. Around the world, as of July 26, 2016, 42 countries in the Americas are infected, 8 countries in Oceania/the Pacific Islands, and 1 country in Africa.

Okay, so you know Zika’s reach around the world and the scary things that can it can cause, but what exactly is Zika? First of all, it’s a virus that can be transmitted through mosquitoes, sex, from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and blood transfusion. In fact, because of that, the FDA has asked two Zika-infected counties in Florida to forego blood donations until local donation centers can test each incoming donation for Zika virus. Furthermore, because the infected parties hadn’t traveled to a Zika-infected country and may not have contracted the virus through sex, the FDA’s director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said that “these may be the first cases of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States.”

To prevent the further spread of Zika, the CDC has advised that people wear long clothing and insect repellent as well as to air condition homes and screen windows. The specific mosquito responsible for the transmission of Zika to humans is in the Aedes species of mosquito. The CDC reports that they are “daytime biters,” like to live near people, and lay eggs in standing water.

Many people won’t have any symptoms of the virus at all. However, common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, and sometimes muscle pain and headache. These can last up to a week. Most don’t end up in the hospital, and it is very rare that people die from it. Furthermore, kind of like chicken pox, once you’ve had it you can’t get it again.

Though Zika doesn’t seem so bad when you have it, it’s what can come from it that people are so worried about. So, how do we treat it? The quick and easy version is that we can’t. There’s no vaccine for it. It’s like the common cold but with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome looming over you (not to mention an inflamed fear of mosquitoes. I mean, really, what devastating illness can’t those guys give us? P.S. The answer is everything but malaria, chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and now Zika virus).

So, now you know what the CDC has to offer on Zika. Though reading about it might make it seem small and far away, it’s not. Chances are, your state has reported cases of Zika.

Listen to the CDC. Get bug spray. Don’t travel to infected countries. Don’t travel to infected countries if you’re pregnant. Don’t have unprotected sex with anyone who has the virus. And, most definitely, tell your doctor if you think you may have Zika.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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