Zika virus: 7 important facts

Mothers posing with their babies who were born with microcephaly, at Pedro I hospital in Campina Grande are shown in this combination photo in Brazil on Feb. 18, 2016.Reuters

Zika Virus is quickly spreading after an outbreak took place in Brazil last year. Prior to the October incident, there were only 146 cases listed in 2014. However, as reported by CNN, the World Health Organization already estimates that by the end of the year, there will be 3 to 4 million infected in the Americas alone.

Here are some of the things you need to know about the virus.

1. The Zika Virus is a type of flavivirus which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. However, unlike these other mosquito-spread diseases, Zika Virus currently has no form of treatment or vaccine. The virus has been linked to a neurological disorder called microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

2. Zika Virus spreads through two different means: People may be infected when bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito or when having sexual intercourse with someone already infected by the virus. 

3. The virus has reached the United States. The Zika Virus has infiltrated Brazil, Costa Rica, Samoa, Ecuador, Mexico and several other countries from Central and South America. However, there is at least one confirmed case in the United States and more than ten suspected cases.

4. Unfortunately, there is no treatment or vaccine at the moment for the Zika Virus and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommends avoiding travel to areas that have been confirmed to be of high risk such as Brazil. Those who will still choose to travel in such places must use a repellent approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Those who have been bitten are recommended to stay away from mosquitoes and other people to prevent the virus from spreading any further. Unplanned pregnancies are also discouraged given that the virus can lead to abnormalities or even the death of babies.

5. Efforts are being made to develop a treatment or vaccine against Zika Virus, but it may take 18 months or more before clinical trials even begin.

6. Everyday Health also reports that the initial symptoms of Zika Virus infection are mild, making it difficult to determine if someone is infected. It is advised that anyone bitten by a mosquito, particularly when in a Zika Virus-contaminated area, immediately seek medical attention.

7. The virus first made its appearance in 1947 and began in Africa. The virus, then refered to as ZIKV, initially came from an infected rhesus macaque living in the Zika forest in Uganda. However, the outbreak only began to cause a stir in late 2015.