10 Essential Facts About the Zika Virus
If you’ve heard about the Zika virus and are wondering what it is, you’re not alone. Cases of this emerging infectious disease are soaring in the Americas and “spreading explosively,” according to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, MD. Several states are reporting cases of U.S. bringing the infection back with them, and health officials in Texas have confirmed a case of sexual transmission of the virus.
For most people, the Zika virus causes only a brief, mild flu-like illness. But in pregnant women it has been linked to an alarming increase in the rate of the birth defect known as microcephaly — a debilitatingly small head and brain size. The clusters of birth defects linked to the Zika virus are an international public health emergency, according to the WHO. Dr. Chan characterizes the situation as an “extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a travel alert advising pregnant women to delay travel to areas where Zika is active. The travel alert list continues to expand and now includes 30 countries or territories, most of them in the Americas.