What You Should Know About the Zika Virus

The Zika virus has been officially classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global emergency. The infection is spreading quickly through Central and South America, contributing to countless debilitating problems including birth defects. In fact, thousands of microcephaly cases have been reported in Brazil within the last six months. Here is what you need to know about this virus.

How It’s Contracted

Mosquitoes are the culprit behind the virus. These insects thrive in warm, tropic places, and they are drawn to stagnant bodies of water, even a water pot on a person’s front porch can attract these pests. In addition to Zika, they carry a range of other diseases, from yellow fever to the dengue virus. These conditions can be contracted and spread alarmingly fast; a mosquito simply bites an infected person and transmits the disease to its next host.

Side Effects and Complications

Most Zika infections present few (or no) symptoms. These can include:

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (a paralysis disorder)
  • Fever, rash, and joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Birth defects (microcephaly)

This virus presents a specific threat to pregnant women and their unborn children. Though Zika only stays in a person’s blood for approximately one week, there is currently no vaccine. The WHO also expects the Zika virus to spread extensively, affecting nearly every country in the Americas. As of January 2016, it has been reported in over 20 nations.

Severe Microcephaly

This birth defect is associated with the Zika virus and is the primary complication associated with infection. When a pregnant mother is bitten by an infected mosquito, the Zika virus is passed to the unborn child. This leads to a malformation of the baby’s head, which is underdeveloped and much smaller than expected at birth. There are a range of developmental issues and life-long problems that accompany this complication, including:

  • Seizures
  • Intellectual disability
  • Eye sight problems

In light of these severe consequences, the WHO is proactively preparing for global infection and prioritizing the creation of a vaccine.

Avoiding Infection

In the meantime, people must know how to avoid and react to a Zika infection. South and Central America are the most affected areas, particularly in population-dense areas like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. The epidemic is expected to grow exponentially; due to criticism against the WHO for its delayed response to Ebola, the organization is promptly responding and aims to contain this virus as much as possible.

The WHO recommends delaying travel to those areas most affected by Zika, though this may prove challenging with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio. If you’re already living in or visiting one of these nations, speak with a physician about staying healthy. Whether or not you are traveling, do your best to avoid mosquito bites. Stay safe by wearing effective mosquito repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Keep the doors and windows of your home closed, as well, and make sure there is no standing water anywhere on or near your property.

The CDC has outlined some steps to follow if you are diagnosed with the Zika virus or experience conditions like fever, rash, and the other signs listed above. The organization advises taking medicine to reduce fever and pain (but not aspirin or ibuprofen), getting plenty of rest, and drinking fluids.

Responding to a Birth Defect Diagnosis

When families are affected by conditions like microcephaly, they may wonder about their legal options in light of such a devastating diagnosis. Though birth defects are caused by a variety of conditions, malpractice during delivery may lead to or exacerbate a problem.

Contact a birth injury attorney for a personal look at your case. He or she will work with experts in the healthcare industry to clearly define and fight for your rights.

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