World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan holds a news conference after the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee concerning the Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 1, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]
The World Health Organization on Monday declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus to be an international public health emergency as the disease linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil spreads rapidly.
What is Zika virus, and how is it spread?
Zika is a tropical disease, like yellow fever and dengue. It is spread to people through mosquito bites, not person to person. The aggressive yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has spread most Zika cases. Although the virus is normally spread by mosquitoes, there has been one report of possible spread through blood transfusion and one of possible spread through sex.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus?
About one in five people who are infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms, the most common of which are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, or redness in the eyes. Other symptoms are muscle pain and headache. It’s usually a mild disease lasting a few days or a week, and rarely requires hospitalization.
Where is Zika an issue?
As the virus spreads from Brazil, other countries in the Americas are also likely to see cases of babies with Zika-linked birth defects, experts believe. The Pan American Health Organization says that Zika has now spread in 24 nations and territories in the Americas.
What risk does Zika pose to pregnant women?
There is strong evidence of a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect called microcephaly in which babies are born with undersized brains and skulls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How can I protect myself from infection?
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Do everything you can to protect yourself from mosquito bites.