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Report: African Zika virus makes its way to Americas

A disease that has spread from Africa called the Zika virus, has made its way toward North and South America and is causing birth defects along the wa...

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|Jan 28|magazine9 min read

A disease that has spread from Africa called the Zika virus, has made its way toward North and South America and is causing birth defects along the way.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts three to four million people could be infected in 2016 alone, while the U.S. intends to begin vaccine trials by the end of the year.

Symptoms include mild fever, headache and conjunctivitis, although 80 percent of those infected don’t feel any symptoms. The virus has been linked to thousands of cases where babies have been born with underdeveloped brains, and there is no cure available.

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The Zika virus was first detected in monkeys in the African country of Uganda back in 1947, but has since spread to the Americas after initially being detected in Brazil last may. It is being carried by mosquitoes, which are helping the disease spread rapidly.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is advising citizens to protect themselves from bites of Aedes mosquitoes, which are found in all Caribbean, North American and South American countries except for Canada and Chile.

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“PAHO anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found,” the PAHO said in a statement.

Pregnant women have been warned to be very leery of the virus and visit their doctor before and after traveling to areas that have been affected. There have been approximately 3,500 reported cases of babies being born with tiny brains — called microcephaly — in Brazil alone since October.

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The PAHO, which is the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that all containers that can hold even small amounts of water should be emptied and cleaned to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

According to Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, the outbreak is “extremely worrisome.”

“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty,” said Chan. “We need to get some answers quickly.”

Source: BBC News

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