Zika virus: what's the buzz?

Zika virus: what's the buzz?

Seven things you need to know about the disease spread by mosquitoes

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In this picture taken last month, 10-year-old Elison nurses his 2-month-old brother Jose Wesley, who was born with microcephaly, in Brazil
Photo: Associated Press

The Zika virus is spreading fast, and has now been found in 22 countries in the Americas. A single mosquito bite can spread the illness, but make sure you get clued up before you go freaking out about zombie apocalypse scenes.

Here's the lowdown:

1 The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 and was unknown in the Americas until 2014. There are now at least 60,000 suspected cases, with the highest rate of infection in Brazil.

2 The disease is not usually serious, but now scientists say it may be linked to microcephaly – where newborn babies are born with small heads and brains. It has also been linked to Guillain-Barré Syndrome – a rare but severe brain disorder than can cause paralysis.


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3 The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. This is the same mosquito that transmits other grim diseases, like dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

4 There is currently no vaccine for Zika, and treatment may take up to a year to develop.

5 The mosquito is in Hong Kong, but there aren’t any reported Zika cases yet. Only one in four infected people develop symptoms.


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6 In the Americas, there is no evidence that the Zika virus can cause death in people who are healthy to start with, but those who are already sick need to take care.

7 Earlier this month, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women to avoid travel to 14 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the virus.

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