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This Virus Is Spreading...And It's Shrinking The Heads Of Newborns

JANUARY 8, 2016

First, it was in Africa. Then, it was in South America. Now, Zika is in the United States.

The Zika virus is terrifying everyone in its wake. Although the old and young are at risk, so are pregnant mothers (or women planning on becoming pregnant).

Spread by mosquitos, the virus has traveled from Africa all the way to the United States.

Mothers that become infected with the bizarre strain often birth babies who suffer from microcephaly, which means that they essentially have shrunken brains (there are other side effects as well).

Most of these children will require lifelong care.

In 2016, there have been 312 cases reported in the United States. The number of infected individuals is growing rapidly.

First found in Brazil in 2014 after the World Cup, there were 147 new cases documented in Brazil that year. In 2015, there were 2,782 cases reported worldwide. Out of the current cases in the United States, 27 were pregnant women, 6 were sexually transmitted, and 1 had Guillain-Barré syndrome.

While no one is certain how the virus got to South America, health officials do know that it can be spread by mosquitos and sexual transmission.

According to the CDC, many people infected with Zika won't even be aware of it.

"Most people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week."

Given the severity of the condition, the Brazilian government says that any woman considering becoming pregnant should wait to do so until the outbreak is contained.

If women are already pregnant, officials advise them to cover as much skin as possible and apply bug repellent frequently. Mothers-to-be in their third trimesters are most at risk.

There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus.

However, researchers are hard at work to create a vaccine. If you're traveling to an area with Zika infections or a large mosquito population, protect yourself: "Use an EPA-approved repellent over sunscreen, wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts thick enough to block a mosquito bite, and sleep in air-conditioned, screened rooms, among others." (via CNN)

Make sure that you are extremely careful if you're pregnant or are planning on starting a family anytime soon. Governments around the world are racing to put an end to this madness, but in the meantime, prevention is on us.

Update: Article updated on 04/06/2016

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