The Zika virus originally surfaced in Uganda in the mid-20th Century. Zika is usually spread through mosquito bites and thus is generally found in tropical regions. The most recent outbreak of the virus began in South America, namely in Brazil, where the insect has flourished.
In order to be infected with the virus, a mosquito must have recently bitten an infected person. The incubation period is about a week. This means that people who suffered from a mosquito bite during the summer do not have to worry about having the virus in them.
Even if a chance encounter with a local mosquito occurred in the past month, the chances of contracting the virus are still nearly zero. Only mosquitoes of the Aedes genus are known to carry viral agents, and this species is only found around the equator. They can pick up blood from people who are currently exhibiting the symptoms and can transmit the disease.
“Avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes if you have the virus,” advises World Health Organization (WHO) analysts.
With the arrival of the virus to Maryland on Feb. 11, local individuals may be afraid of suffering from the intense global epidemic. But symptoms are generally mild, ranging from a slight fever and headache to stomach issues that last anywhere from two to seven days.
However, most concerns surrounding the Zika virus are due to the sexual transmission of the disease and the mother to infant transmission, which can occur if a pregnant woman contracts the virus. Babies born to mothers infected by the virus can suffer from serious birth defects, most notably microcephaly, in which an infant develops an abnormally small head.
Because of the dangers facing unborn children, global figures have urged their citizens to delay pregnancy, if possible. The sexual spread of the disease has also prompted Pope Francis to speak out in favor of using contraception to keep children from being born with birth defects.
“On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one (Zika)…it was clear,” said Pope Francis to the Associated Press.
This change in the Pope’s attitude toward the use of contraception is a big step; the Catholic Church traditionally condemns the use of contraception for any reason.
Even though the local effects of the Zika virus may go nearly unnoticed, it is still causing issues on a global scale and changing the face of the global community.