Brace Yourselves for the Zika Virus

The WHO warns of the fast-paced spread of Zika virus


The Zika virus is spreading and it is spreading fast.

Margaret Chann, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the Zika virus is "now spreading explosively" in the Americas, according to CNN News.

The virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects and brain abnormalities in thousands of babies in Brazil, is estimated to infect 3 million to 4 million people within the next year. Chan discussed her concerns at a briefing Thursday morning in Geneva.

Chan further said that the "level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty," according to CNN. The focus is on getting some answers... and fast.

23 countries and territories are currently affected by the mosquitoes that are spreading the virus. The U.S. has 31 confirmed cases in 11 states and the District of Columbia, according to CNN.

Of those affected with the virus, 80 percent of them do not know they have the virus due to a lack of symptoms or they have very mild symptoms, including fever, rashes, joint pain or pink eye. Symptoms usually last about one week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning individuals who do experience Zika-related joint pain, or assume they have joint pain related to the virus, to avoid taking aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs can cause hemorrhaging, according to Pain Medicine News.

While there is a global concern about the Zika virus, it is important to note that the Zika virus does not pose the same threat as did the most recent global outbreak, Ebola. Zika, unlike Ebola, produces mild flu-like symptoms and rarely requires hospitalization, according to The Guardian. Death from the Zika virus is also rare, unlike Ebola.

Additionally, the Zika virus can be easily controlled through effective mosquito procedures, including insecticide use and destroying the infected mosquitoes and their larvae, according to The Guardian.

Precautions should still be taken in protecting pregnant women and their unborn babies, since there is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine that can treat the virus. The process of developing an effective vaccine could take a year, or longer, according to The Washington Post.

At this time, pregnant women should avoid countries battling the virus. Wearing insect repellent and clothes that cover the body are helpful in protecting women from infected mosquitoes.