News / Health

    Zika Could Cause Spike In Illegal Abortions

    Patients participate in a Zika prevention talk as they wait to be attended to at the Women's National Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 29, 2016.
    Patients participate in a Zika prevention talk as they wait to be attended to at the Women's National Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 29, 2016.
    VOA News

    Doctors, public health experts and women's rights organizations are concerned that the strongly suspected link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a fetal deformity resulting in a shrunken head and a damaged brain, will cause women in the Americas to seek illegal abortions.

    Some countries in Latin America have opted to advise women to delay becoming pregnant, rather than make abortions more readily available.

    Poor women in these countries have little access to family planning and many cannot even afford to buy insect repellent to help avoid the mosquito-borne virus.

    The virus has mainly hit Brazil, a predominately Catholic country. Botched abortions in clandestine clinics are already a major cause of maternal death in Brazil.

    Infographic: Areas With Active Zika Virus Transmission
    Infographic: Areas With Active Zika Virus Transmission

    Daniel Becker, a pediatrician and a public health expert in Rio de Janeiro told Reuters, "Zika is a health catastrophe and a terrifying menace for pregnant women. People will look for an abortion."

    Emergency meeting

    The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting Monday to to decide whether the Zika threat should be rated a global health crisis.

    The link between Zika and microcephaly is strongly suspected but has not been definitively proven. The cause of the deformity is under investigation.

    In Brazil, the incidence of the normally rare birth defect is now 10 times higher than normal.

    There is no vaccine for Zika.

    "The real problem is that trying to develop a vaccine that would have to be tested on pregnant women is a practical and ethical nightmare," Mike Turner, head of infection and immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust, told The Guardian newspaper.

    The WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Pan American Health Organization warn the Zika virus is spreading rapidly through the Americas and could affect as many as 4 million people.

    Dr. Peter Hotez told the Examiner newspaper that the Zika outbreak in Brazil poses a "far greater threat to the United States than Ebola," A Zika outbreak has "never been seen on this scale," Hotez said, despite its prevalence in Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands.

    Zika is a viral illness spread from human to human through the bite of a mosquito.

    Virus carriers

    Two species of mosquito are known to carry the virus, the Yellow Fever mosquito and the Asian Tiger mosquito.

    Both species are found throughout most of the Americas.

    The Yellow Fever mosquito can be found along the Gulf Coast of the United States while the Asian Tiger mosquito can be found as far north as New York City.

    Health authorities in several Asian countries have advised travelers, particularly pregnant women, to avoid trips to Central and South America.

    A Colombian health worker gives travellers information on how to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, at the main bus terminal in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 31, 2016.
    A Colombian health worker gives travellers information on how to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, at the main bus terminal in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 31, 2016.

    Travel warning

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has warned pregnant women against traveling to areas with Zika virus outbreaks.

    The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites and there are no vaccines to prevent the spread and no drugs to treat those affected.

    If you are traveling to countries where the Zika virus is found, take the following precautions:

    *Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

    *Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

    *Sleep under a mosquito bed net to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

    Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.  

    *Always follow the product label instructions.

    *Reapply insect repellent, as directed.

    *Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

    *If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.  

    If you have a baby or child:

    *Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two months of age.

    *Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or

    *Cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.  

    *Do not apply insect repellent onto a child's hands, eyes, mouth, or cut/ irritated skin.

    *Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to child's face.

    Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    They have asked people coming or returning from those areas, who display symptoms such as fever and rashes to immediately report to health centers.  Doctors are also required to immediately report suspected cases.

    Faced with the Zika outbreak, the presidents of the United States and Brazil have agreed on "the importance of collaborative efforts" to combat its spread.

    Barack Obama and Dilma Rouseff recognize the significance of working together "to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus," the White House said.

    In the meantime, Brazil has turned to a British company, Oxitec, for help. According to The New York Times, Brazil recently approved the release of multiple groups of genetically modified Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, created by Oxitec, throughout the country.  

    The idea behind the release of the mosquitos is for the mature modified males to mate with females.

    Their offspring who inherited the modified gene would die, causing the mosquito population to dwindle and, hopefully, lower the threat of the disease.

    The WHO says the virus has grown rapidly to a public-health threat of "alarming proportions."

    Julius Lutwana, a virologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, told VOA Zika was long thought to pose only a small risk to humans.


    The WHO says people with the Zika virus have a mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis (red eye), with symptoms lasting between two to seven days.  The best prevention against Zika virus, experts say, is protection against mosquito bites.

    Outbreaks in Brazil, which reported its first Zika case in 2015, and elsewhere in southern and Central America have led to extensive spraying of insecticides to eradicate mosquitoes.

    The WHO's regional office in the Americas said the most effective ways to stop the virus from spreading are to reduce mosquito breeding sites and for people to protect themselves from bites with insect repellent, nets, screens and clothing that covers as much of the body as possible.

    WATCH: Related video on Zika virus

    Zika Threatens to Become Global Health Threati
    Zlatica Hoke
    February 01, 2016 1:40 AM
    There are growing concerns that the Zika virus may become a threat to global health, as Ebola did in 2014 and 2015. The mosquito-borne virus is spreading rapidly through the Americas, and travelers have brought individual cases to other continents. Zika is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it may cause severe birth defects. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that authorities in Latin America are implementing measures to prevent an epidemic.

    You May Like

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora