The Zika virus alarms the world

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A city worker fumigates the area at the San Judas Community in San Salvador, El Salvador January 26. Courtesy of usnews.com

The rampant spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is alarming masses around the world due to its direct correlation to a neurological birth defect, according to CNN. More than 29 countries have been exposed to the Zika virus – a number that will continue to rise until United States government-appointed researchers are able to develop a vaccine and treatment, according to usnews.com
The Zika virus travelled from Africa to Asia over 50 years ago, according to The New York TimesThe Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits the Zika virus, which is in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue. Victims experience mild symptoms such as fevers, headaches, rashes and pink eye, according to CNN. 

Microcephaly, as apparent in this 3-month-old baby in Recife, Brazil, is becoming increasingly evident in newborns in nations exposed to the Zika virus. Courtesy of CNN.
Microcephaly, as apparent in this 3-month-old baby in Recife, Brazil, is becoming increasingly evident in newborns in nations exposed to the Zika virus.
Courtesy of CNN

Up to 80 percent of infected individuals do not notice they have the virus. This is problematic for pregnant women because they can transmit the virus to their growing babies, leading these babies to suffer a neurological disorder known as microcephaly. This condition causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads, and consequently experience severe developmental issues and sometimes death, according to CNN. Therefore, as the Zika virus attracts worldwide attention, the need for a vaccine is increasing. 
President Barack Obama met with his senior health advisers January 26, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Health and Human Services Secretary Mrs. Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Mr. Thomas Frieden. President Obama expressed the critical need for diagnostic tests, vaccines, and therapeutic drugs. He also stressed the value of informing Americans about how to avoid the Zika virus infection, according to usnews.com. 
Between November 2015 and February of this year, Brazil reported that 17 out of the 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly in newborns were directly related to the Zika virus. This resulted in the death of five infants, according to CNN.
In addition to Brazil, several Latin American countries have been exposed to the disease. 
A city worker fumigates the area at the San Judas Community in San Salvador, El Salvador January 26. Courtesy of usnews.com
A city worker fumigates the area at the San Judas Community in San Salvador, El Salvador January 26.
Courtesy of usnews.com

The Zika virus made its debut in the United States when citizens returned from Latin American countries infected with the disease. For example, a Hawaiian baby was born with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus after his mother returned from Brazil. Pregnant women in both Illinois and Florida also caught the Zika virus, according to CNN.
The CDC is asking obstetrician-gynecologists to study ultrasounds and perform maternal testing for pregnant women who have traveled to one of the 29 countries where the Zika virus is active. CDC suggests that health care providers offer testing for the virus to pregnant women who have traveled to affected countries two to 12 weeks after returning home, according to CNN.
Researchers around the world are working to create a Zika vaccine to curb its rapid spread. Although clinical trials for the vaccine could potentially begin this year, it will not be available for use anytime soon. Therefore, as of right now, the only preventative action individuals can take is to avoid traveling to affected areas. 
The World Health Organization declared this rapid diaspora of the virus an international public health emergency, with its potential to spread to four million people by the end of the year, according to The New York Times. Even as the CDC and individuals take preventive and combative measures, the spread of the Zika virus continues to remain a global health issue.
– Jade Cohen, Opinions Editor