So Zika Is Back? Here’s the Story, in Two Minutes

The mosquito-borne virus has become a public health crisis as it spreads through the Americas.

The Zika Virus Explained in Two Minutes

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that makes about one in five infected people sick with rash, fever, joint pain, or pinkeye and has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a neurological condition in which a newborn child’s head is significantly smaller than normal. Zika can cause the muscle-weakening disease Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults. 

Akin to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, Zika is commonly transmitted when someone with the virus is bitten by a mosquito, which then bites someone else. Mosquitoes can carry the virus across the Americas because of travel patterns. More than 1,600 people in the U.S. have been infected, including more than 430 pregnant women.

Florida health officials said on Friday that four cases 1 Now 14, according to the Associated Press. were probably transmitted locally in Miami by mosquitoes, unlike previous cases of Zika in the U.S., which were caused by travel to affected areas or sexual contact with an infected person. The announcement suggests that Zika could eventually become endemic to parts of the mainland U.S. 

QuickTake Zika’s Past and Present

Brazil, which became the nexus of Zika cases in May 2015, reported a twentyfold increase in the incidence of microcephaly from 2010, and Zika has had a considerable impact on the 2016 Olympics, which will begin in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. A slew of top men's golfers cited the virus as a reason they are skipping the Olympics, although the Games aren't a high priority for them. Tennis players and some other athletes are also giving the games a pass. 

Still others have said they will compete and take precautions, including wearing Zika-proof uniforms pretreated with mosquito repellent and, among some men, freezing their sperm for future use in case they are infected. Because travel for the Olympics represents less than 0.25 percent of total travel to Zika-affected countries, and the Games occur during Brazil’s winter months, the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the Olympics don’t pose a risk for significant additional transmission.

There is neither a vaccine nor a drug to combat Zika, though the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies are working on both. The CDC recommends avoiding mosquito bites, noting that Zika-spreading mosquitoes usually bite during the daytime. Common techniques include covering exposed skin, using insect repellent, and staying in areas with air conditioning and screens. The agency also recommends using protection during sex with someone who may have been infected.

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