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Zika Virus: History and Prevention

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    In 1947, the Zika virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda’s Zika Forest. The Zika disease is caused by the Zika virus and can be transmitted in three ways. Through the bite of an infected mosquito, sexual intercourse, or through blood transfusion. 

    Years after its discovery, the first reports of infection with the virus came from Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Since then, outbreaks have occurred throughout the world, infecting people in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Island, and the Americas. For 20 years, sporadic cases of the disease were reported in parts of Africa and Asia from the 1960s to the 1980s. 

    To date, there are a total of 86 countries and territories worldwide that have reported cases of the Zika infection. The small island of Yap, a part of the Federated States of Micronesia, experienced an outbreak of the virus in 2007. This was followed by an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013, as the virus continued to spread to other countries and territories in the Pacific. The virus would eventually make its way to the Americas in 2015, with the United States and Brazil both experiencing outbreaks. 

    Those infected with the Zika virus may experience mild to no symptoms. It is reported that 4 of 5 people infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms at all. A person with symptoms may experience a fever, joint or muscle pain, and may even develop a rash. When the outbreak occurred in Brazil, those infected had experienced rash-like illnesses. Other symptoms may also include headaches and reddening of the eyes. 

    Symptoms usually last from a few days to a week, and many recover through simply common medicine, as there is no specific medication designated to treat the virus. The chances of a person dying from the Zika virus are extremely low. To get tested, people can either take a urine or blood test. 

    While there is no vaccine to prevent a person from becoming infected with the Zika virus, there are other measures people can take to stop infection. The CDC advises women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant not to travel to places that are high at risk of Zika. If a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus, this can lead to miscarriage or birth defects. 

    If a person is traveling to a known area of the virus, they are advised to take extra precaution to protect themselves. If a person is staying in a high-risk area, they should consider housing that is well air conditioned and screened. Mosquitoes carrying the virus can infect people at any time, day or night. 

    To protect from the Zika virus, travelers should dress in long sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks, and wear shoes. The use of mosquito repellent can also help prevent infection. 

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