Recent Zika virus outbreak is causing birth defects

Mosquitoes are notorious for their itchy bites and for carrying disease. Sadly, we’ve added another illness to the list. The Zika virus was first discovered in the 1940’s, but few knew of it until this past spring when there was an outbreak in Brazil. The outbreak affected pregnancies, leading to multiple reported cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, birth defects, and poor pregnancy outcomes. It affected more than a million people, and scientists have a new perspective on the virus.

Before the outbreak in May 2015, the occurrences of Zika outbreaks were small and sporadic, leading scientists to believe that the virus was not quite as dangerous as they now believe. It’s reported that Zika may cause brain damage to fetus’, leading to lifelong illnesses and cognitive problems. The disease cannot be cured, although treatment can help.

The symptoms of the Zika virus include pain in the back of the eyes, joints, or muscles, fatigue, fever, chills, loss of appetite, or sweating. Other common symptoms include eye redness, headache, skin rash, or vomiting. In most cases, the illness is mild, so it resolves itself within days or weeks,but it can have a lasting effect if you are pregnant.

There is no cure for the disease, so treatment includes relieving symptoms, rest, rehydration, and medications for pain and fever. It is very important to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of infection, as the virus can be transmitted through the insects. The disease can be transmitted through a number of ways, including mother to fetus, infected blood, and sexual contact.

The virus is found in the Americas, Pacific Islands and Africa. There are no reported cases of the Zika virus in any continental U.S. states, but they have been reported by returning travelers.

The emotional toll that this disease is creating in Brazil is very large, due to the number of birth defects caused. Many families do not know what to do and are worried about stigma and judgement by their society. They love their siblings and children, but the growing number of affected people is becoming more than just a problem.

The disease is becoming a protest for rights, a devastating condition, and another reason for worry across the globe. The outbreak in Brazil made a rare condition known as microcephaly become more common and widespread, which is terrifying. If a rare condition has become more common, it runs the risk of being something that all parents will need to worry about when they’re expecting.

The fact that Zika is more common in the poorer neighborhoods, where sex education and preventative measures are hard to find, is even more terrifying. Rights activists are protesting for people to get educated, as this is a very serious condition when the infected is pregnant.

With the Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro this year, the presence of Zika could have negative effects on the attendance and performance. The continuation of Carnival has also sparked protest, seeing that it is a time when millions of people are outside celebrating. This is a risk for more infection and is not sitting well with most.

By Eilidh MacDonald

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