By Miracle Vincent and Bryant Iriarte
If you have recently heard about the Zika virus, whether on the news or by word-of-mouth, and are wondering what it is or whether it will affect you, you are not alone.
Recent news indicates the Zika virus, which originated from the Zika Forest of Uganda, is spreading quickly.
The virus was first known for affecting areas from Africa to Asia around the 1950s.
Most recently, Brazil has experienced an outbreak. But an outbreak in Florida soon followed.
According to the New York Times, in late July Florida officials announced what appeared to be the first locally transmitted cases of Zika infection in the continental United States.
Suddenly, we can more easily realize the international health emergency we have been hearing of on daily news reports.
How are people contracting this virus? The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites and also through sexual intercourse.
There are reports that link the Zika virus to the birth defect, microcephaly. This birth defect has been associated with newborns having unusually small heads and brain damage.
The virus appears to cause the fetus to be born under developed. Side effects from those born of infected mothers include: deafness, congenital defect, blindness and seizures.
The Zika virus disease and Zika virus congenital infection are now nationally notable conditions.
There are few cases where contracting this infection has resulted in death. According to the CDC Arboviral Disease Branch, the U.S. now has locally acquired cases of 14,059 affected people.
Those affected solely from travel to affected areas is reported at 51.
How do we protect ourselves from something that has spread rapidly? The CDC is actively discouraging pregnant women from traveling to more than 45 countries in which the Zika virus is spreading.
The CDC has also urged all pregnant women who have traveled to infected areas, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America, to get tested for the infection.
It has also been advised to restrain from unprotected sex with partners who have visited these areas.
If you plan on taking a vacation whether it be by plane, via cruise, or backpacking through unmarked territory, wear mosquito bug repellent and always use caution. Do your homework and make sure you are aware whether or not you are in an infected area.
Now that this virus has spread to the continental U.S. be sure to be proactive in protecting you and your loved ones.