21 October 2016
A woman holds a Brazilian infant born with a smaller head. Brazil  has the highest rate of infection of the Zika virus. Photo: Internet
A woman holds a Brazilian infant born with a smaller head. Brazil has the highest rate of infection of the Zika virus. Photo: Internet

10 things to know about the Zika virus

At least 22 people in the Americas have contracted the Zika virus, more than double than a month ago.

An outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 and was unknown in the Americas until 2014, Reuters reports.

The disease is usually relatively mild but  WHO warns it may be linked to cases of brain damage in newborn babies in Brazil.

Here are some facts about Zika:

1.  The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. There is no vaccine for Zika.

2. The virus is usually relatively mild, with symptoms such as skin rash, fever, muscle and joint pain, lasting up to seven days. It is uncommon for people infected with Zika to need hospital treatment.

3. In the Americas, there is no evidence that the Zika virus can cause death  but sporadic cases have been reported of more serious complications in people with preexisting diseases or conditions, causing death.

4. Researchers in Brazil and WHO say there is growing evidence that links Zika to microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads and brains but information about the possible transmission of Zika from infected mothers to babies during pregnancy or childbirth is “very limited”. 

5. Brazil has the highest rate of infection, followed by Colombia. Zika outbreaks have also been reported in Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela, among others.

6. In Colombia, it is estimated that 500 babies will be born with microcephaly, according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

7. Colombia’s health ministry says Zika has already infected 13,500 people across the country and there could be as many as 700,000 cases this year.

8. Earlier this month, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women to avoid travel to 14 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the virus.

9. One in four people infected with Zika develop symptoms and many cases of Zika go undetected, making it difficult to estimate the true scale of the outbreak in the Americas.

10. WHO estimates there are at least 60,000 suspected cases of Zika, although the real figure is thought to be far higher.

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