The U.S. government is sounding the alarm about the rapid spread of the Zika virus. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially around mosquitoes, should you be concerned?
“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) according to USA Today. “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.”
As summer approaches, officials are warning that mosquito eradication efforts, lab tests and vaccine research may not be able to catch up. There are 346 cases of Zika confirmed in the continental United States — all in people who had recently traveled to Zika-prone countries.
But in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa, the virus is now being transmitted locally – that is, spread by mosquitoes.
How Hard Will Zika Hit The Mainland?
Puerto Rico could see hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika virus, with officials warning the rest of the United States needs to prepare for possible outbreaks.
While Zika has not yet spread by mosquitoes in the continental U.S., some have gotten Zika through sex with a partner who traveled to a Zika-prone area.
The Aedes aegypti species of mosquito that can transmit the disease is present in all or part of 30 states, mostly southern. The level of uncertainly about the virus expressed by state and federal health care officials is not reassuring.
“An infected man can transmit this to a woman, we don’t know yet if a woman can transmit this to a man,” said a health official in Nevada, which this week identified its first case of Zika Virus, according to Channel 4 NBC in Nevada.
“If I were to make two lists of things that we know about Zika virus and things that we don’t know, the list of things we don’t know is going to be the longer of those two lists,” he said.
Without a sufficient amount of information, health officials cannot come up with a vaccine for it.
“There is research being done on this, but honestly, it’s probably going to be several years before we get a vaccine for this, if we even get one,” said one researcher.
“This is a very unusual virus that we can’t pretend to know everything about it that we need to know,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to USA Today. “I’m not an alarmist and most of you who know me know that I am not, but the more we learn about the neurological aspects, the more we look around and say this is very serious.”
Zika has long been considered simply a minor disease with mild symptoms. But last year in Brazil Zika was linked to an unusual increase in microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with abnormally small heads.
For detailed information on prevention, symptoms and prevention visit these links to the Center for Disease Control:
- Preventing mosquito bites
- If you are a man who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika
- If you have Zika, how protect others from getting sick
- If you are concerned about getting Zika from a male sex partner
- Information for travelers
- Areas with Zika outbreaks
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