By JORDAN EVANS
Since April of 2015, the Zika virus has been spreading across the South and Central Americas, but what is the Zika Virus and what type of impact could it potentially have on Northwest Oklahoma? Why is it important to know about this virus as a student far from the reaches of the South and Central Americas?
The Zika virus is an infection that often shows mild to non-existent symptoms. Although only one in five who are infected actually show the symptoms, those that do frequently display a mild fever, rashes and headaches. The symptoms are typically short-lived, only occurring for no more than a week or two. The virus may sound as though it presents little harm, however, the existing fear is what issues the virus causes in pregnancies. The virus can cause the unborn children of the host to have shrunken heads and other debilitating physical deformities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that anyone who is pregnant or may become pregnant avoid the Central and South Americas.
“Zika” gets its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda, where it is believed that the virus originated in 1947. There have been several isolated cases since the discovery of the virus, but the 2015 outbreak in South America has created a sense of urgency in the United States to react to this virus. The disease has been spreading rapidly throughout the South American continent through its abundant mosquito population. The mosquitoes draw blood from a carrier of the virus and then inject it into the bloodstream of the next person they pierce. This method of transfer has moved the virus into Central America and into the neighboring Mexico.
In January of 2016 the CDC announced a travel warning to anyone visiting South or Central America. The biggest threat to the United States would be a tourist bringing the virus back and getting bit by a North American mosquito. The U.S. also faces the threat of the virus coming up through Mexico by mosquitoes when the spring and summer months arrive.
There have been several travel-associated cases that have been found in the United States.
There is currently no cure for the Zika virus, but there are treatments that reduce the effects. For more information you can visit www.cdc.gov/zika.