News / Health

    Zika Virus Spreading Rapidly

    Pietro Rafael, who has microcephaly, reacts to stimulus during an evaluation session with a physiotherapist at the Altino Ventura rehabilitation center in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Pietro Rafael, who has microcephaly, reacts to stimulus during an evaluation session with a physiotherapist at the Altino Ventura rehabilitation center in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Fern Robinson

    The explosion of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Americas comes as tens of thousands of people are poised to descend on Brazil later this year for the Olympics, possibly making the international games a springboard to transmit the virus around the world when visitors return home.

    Dr. Beth Bell of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told VOA "For most people, the Zika virus is not a problem.  It can cause mild, flu-like symptoms, but the virus can also cause babies to be born with a serious condition called microcephaly."  

    Zika virus has been tentatively linked to 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, a condition that results in abnormally small heads and brains in newborns. There is no treatment for microcephaly.

    Infographic: Areas With Active Zika Virus Transmission (click to expand)

    4 million could be affected

    The World Health Organization warns the Zika virus is spreading rapidly through the Americas and could affect as many as four million people.

    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 that the virus, which was first identified in Uganda in 1947, 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 as no vaccine or treatment is available.

    Brazil reported its first Zika case in 2015.  

    Margaret Chan, the WHO's director general, said Thursday at a special meeting in Geneva that 23 countries and territories in the Americas region have reported Zika virus cases.

    She said the Zika virus is “spreading explosively” in the Americas. She has called for an emergency meeting of experts Monday to determine measures to combat the spread of the virus.

    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

    Obama calls for quick response

    In the United States, President Barack Obama has called for the rapid development of tests, vaccines and treatments for Zika infections.

    Obama convened a meeting of senior health advisers to discuss the spread of the virus and its economic and developmental impact on the Americas.

    The virus is named for the Zika forest in Uganda where the virus was first discovered in a monkey nearly 70 years ago. It was first believed to affect only primates, and when it was detected in humans, it seemed to cause only mild illness.

    Outbreaks in Brazil and elsewhere in southern and central America have led to extensive spraying of insecticides to eradicate mosquitos.

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

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said the NIH is "working with partners to accelerate research, disease diagnosis, vaccines and therapeutics."

    He says that an existing vaccine platform that was proven safe with the West Nile virus could be repurposed for use in developing a vaccine for Zika. He added, however, that a completed vaccine is several years away.

    New cases reported

    Health officials in the U.S. state of Virginia said Tuesday a man there tested positive for the virus, but that there was no risk of it spreading to others because it is not mosquito season there.

    On Wednesday, a hospital in Denmark said a tourist who had traveled to South and Central America has tested positive for the incurable disease.

    Watch: CDC Expert Discuss Zika

    CDC Doctor Discusses Zikai
    X
    January 29, 2016 3:31 PM

    Controversy has arisen in El Salvador and Colombia, where authorities have said women of child-bearing age should postpone getting pregnant.  In Brazil, 200,000 troops are traveling to homes to distribute pamphlets offering advice on eradicating mosquitos, while crews are also fumigating areas that will be used for upcoming carnival celebrations and this year's Olympics.

    The WHO's regional office in the Americas said Monday 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.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Lou from: Atlanta
    January 29, 2016 4:05 PM
    Time to bring back DDT and use it WISELY.

    by: Mary from: Grand Rapids, MN
    January 29, 2016 10:40 AM
    200.4 million people in Brazil divided by 4,000 = ?

    by: Evilincarnate
    January 29, 2016 10:18 AM
    Well, probably not the time to be an anti-vaxxer. On the plus side, this will help thin out the herd, separating those intelligent enough to believe the science and the studies on vaccines, versus those who will suffer at the hands of this soon to be pandemic. At least once they develop a vaccine.

    by: Susan
    January 29, 2016 8:38 AM
    I'm concerned that there's going to be a huge campaign of "spraying for mosquitoes", and no one addressing the fact that the spray will also kill a multitude of beneficial insects, that control the other pests in the gardens and parks, and we end up with an ecological disaster as plants and crops are destroyed by the insects left unchecked. Mosquito spray wipes out ladybugs, praying mantis, damsel flies, read the label on mosquito yard spray, for the entire list. How about encouraging people to build bat houses, along with the suggestions of body spray and protective clothes.

    by: Richard
    January 29, 2016 7:31 AM
    Hopefully this virus doesn't mutate into something worse!

    by: Ashley from: Delaware
    January 29, 2016 7:21 AM
    "It was first believed to affect only primates, and when it was detected in humans, it seemed to cause only mild illness." News flash: humans ARE primates.

    by: shannon
    January 29, 2016 6:44 AM
    Postpone the Olympics there until they find a solution to the zika...if not be prepared for this to be worldwide problem...this is serious..the generations to come will no longer exist

    by: Attention!
    January 29, 2016 6:38 AM
    This is gonna be catastrophic, we need to cancel the games, also avoid getting pregnant for a couple years, in Oregon where I live I've already seen mosquitos and it's winter here. One of them was of the species that carries the virus but I killed it.

    by: Anonymous
    January 29, 2016 4:49 AM
    I hope it don't get even dangerous and spread all around

    by: Maizein
    January 29, 2016 4:02 AM
    We're primates... More specifically, apes... No, for real, we are.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 29, 2016 10:38 AM
    YOU are what you believe you are, and nothing more or less? .. but that's another story, isn't it?
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora