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So the Zika Virus is Officially in the US? Let’s Not Panic

zika virus

The Zika virus can be found in Aedes species mosquitoes. (frankieleon/Flickr)

The Zika virus just made history in America.

For the first time in the history of the CDC--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--a travel health advisory was declared in an American neighborhood in Florida. It's pretty serious.

But instead of panicking, we're going take a closer look at what's up:

What is Zika?

The Zika virus is a disease that's largely spread by mosquitoes.

The virus is usually spready by the Aedes species of mosquito. They're known as tough biters during the day, but they're also apt to bite at night.

But mosquitoes aren't the only ones to blame for Zika's spread. The virus can also be spread through blood transfusions and sex.

People with Zika generally don't experience very many symptoms--if a fever, rash, headache, red eyes, and muscle or joint pain are experienced by Zika patients, they're rather mild. Most Zika patients don't head to the hospital; they're usually advised to rest and hydrate.

There are concerns Zika may be linked to the Guillain-Barré Syndrome for some patients. The syndrome is a sickness that affects the nervous system, and some patients may experience muscle weakness or paralysis. But then again, very few are experiencing this--and the possible link is still under investigation.

Despite its mild symptoms, the Zika virus is a serious health issue for pregnant women. Microcephaly, brought upon by Zika, can infect unborn children and impede on their brain growth. The brain defect can cause newly born children with Zika to have smaller skulls and heads.

Currently, there isn't a vaccine or treatment for Zika. The current strategy is to locate and target the infected mosquitoes that are carrying the virus.

So, it's in the United States?

Yes.

History was made just this week, with the CDC health agency declaring a travel advisory in a US neighborhood for the first time ever. The travel health warning is targeted at pregnant women (or women who are trying to get pregnant).

The US-based health organization usually issues health advisories for broad global locations and not for specific neighborhoods in the United States. The warning affects a 150-square-meter section just north of Miami.

The CDC has advised pregnant women and those who wish to become pregnant to not live, stay or travel through that area.

So far, 14 people have been infected in Florida, and the CDC has responded by sending a team there.

Before Zika made it to Florida, many Americans who traveled abroad were infected by the virus through its various modes of transmission.

- The first US baby born with microcephaly was found in New Jersey this June. The mother was infected while traveling in Honduras.

- The first American death caused by the Zika virus happened back in May.

- The CDC says over 150 women in the US have been found to be infected with Zika.

So, is the US government doing anything about it? Well, err, Congress put it aside to deal with after summer vacations. And the White House has said the government currently isn't putting aside enough money to address the Zika threat.

And it's bigger than the US?

Yes, sadly, the impact of the Zika virus is felt even moreso in other countries. Like other viruses, it has continued to spread throughout the decades and has flourished with population growth.

Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and has spread Eastward from there. The virus was spotted in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia in the late 70s, and it was only recently found in Brazil.

Puerto Rico reports about 50 infections a day. The US territory has an estimated 5,500 people with Zika and that includes over 650 pregnant women. The Zika situation on the small island is so overwhelming, along with its debt and health crises that the country's adviser on Zika called it quits.

Zika has hit 67 countries across the world over the last year. Health experts say that every country in the Americas will be affected--except for Canada and Chile.

And let's not forget Brazil. There are about 1,300 confirmed cases of Zika-caused microcephaly in Brazil. The Brazilian government actually warned families to not have sex because of the virus outbreak.

Wait--aren't the Olympics in Rio? Yes, thousands of athletes from countries around the world and the millions of Games watchers who will gather in Brazil for the international sporting event will face the risk of being infected.

But--many health officials say there is nothing to worry about. The United Nations says there is no need to cancel or postpone the Olympics because of Zika. WHO said there is a "very low risk" of Zika spreading because of the Olympics.

After all, most people can cover up most of their skin and lather on the insect repellent in areas of a Zika outbreak. The situation, however, is still dangerous for pregnant women.

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

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So the Zika Virus is Officially in the US? Let’s Not Panic

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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