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Zika Virus Spreads Across Americas

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The Zika virus is quickly becoming a pandemic across the Americas. The WHO has recently declared a global public health emergency on the Zika virus. The current epidemic originated in Brazil and began spreading in May of last year.

The disease is mainly spread by the mosquito vector Aedes aegypti, which inhabits all the countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile. Once a person is bit by a female mosquito, the virus inside the mosquito’s saliva is injected into the body.

Those infected may show a variety of symptoms including fevers and rashes but a majority do not appear ill. According to the CDC, one in five people infected develop Zika. The others may other detect the virus by blood testing.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector for the Zika virus. (courtesy of Flickr)

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector for the Zika virus. (courtesy of Flickr)

However, most harmful is that the virus is associated with microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition when a baby is born with an small head because of incomplete brain development. This condition can lead to developmental delays including problems with movement and speech.

Currently, there are no vaccines and medicine available to protect people from the disease. There are only mosquito repellents containing deet that can protect against the virus. But this does not worry some people. “I’m not worried about getting the Zika virus right now. But if it becomes a bigger problem, then I would be worried for my friends and family,” said freshman Prachi Joshi.

This summer, Brazil is hosting the 2016 Olympics in one of its biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro. The Olympics often attract thousands of tourists and athletes to the crowded city. At the same time, extended daylight in the summer will allow the mosquitos to bite for longer periods of time. In addition, during the winter months the temperature is too low for the Aedes mosquito to survive. “I think there is going to be smaller turnout at the Olympics because people don’t want to go there and end up getting a serious virus,” said senior Chris Nguyen.

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Zika Virus Spreads Across Americas