As the northern hemisphere enters the summer, there have been more and more news stories about the Zika virus. Considering that a mosquito bite is a summer rite-of-passage for children and adults alike, a virus that is transmitted in this way can be cause for fear or, at the very least, concern.
However, for most of the population, contraction of the Zika virus won’t be fatal. In fact, most people won’t need to go to the hospital, or even know they’ve been infected!
The common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The mild symptoms typically last about a week.
The Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the CDC. Additionally, people can get Zika through sex with an infected man.
The virus can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. This may be the worst case, as infection while in utero can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly.
The virus is named after the Zika Virus in Uganda, where it was discovered in 1947. The first human cases were detected in 1952, and since there have been outbreaks in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Island.
There have most likely been many more outbreaks and cases of the Zika virus than have been detected and reported because the symptoms are generally mild and are shared by other illnesses and diseases.
Once a person has been infected with the virus, they are likely immune for the future.
One can protect him or herself from the Zika virus by engaging in protected sex with men, and by avoiding mosquito bites by wearing long clothing, staying in an air conditioned building or behind screens, and by eliminating any standing water in which mosquitos might breed and increase their population.