The Zika virus may no longer just be something that affects people living in parts of Central and South America or the unlucky American traveler who becomes infected in those places. Now the CDC is preparing for an increase in cases in this country.
According to Ars Technica, CDC Director Tom Frieden said that the agency expects clusters of the virus to pop up on the U.S. mainland in the next several months. The mosquitoes that spread the virus are the same ones that spread viruses like dengue and chikungunya, which often result in small outbreaks in humid places like Texas and Florida. The same thing could occur with Zika (the virus can also be spread as an STI).
In adults, Zika tends to cause mild symptoms, but the virus is extremely dangerous to pregnant women, for it can cause birth defects in their fetuses. One known defect is believed to be microcephaly, which severely affects head and brain development in babies. Scientists have recently found some scary data that strengthens the link between the virus and microcephaly:
The fear is bolstered by recent data that has only strengthened the tie between the virus and the birth defect, with some studies finding the virus killing off developing brain cells. In a study released this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers report tracking the development of a fetus whose mother was infected with the virus during a trip to Central America while she was three months pregnant.
With blood tests and magnetic resonance images (MRI), researchers watched as the baby’s brain essentially turned to liquid in the course of nine weeks. The woman aborted the fetus at week 21.
Liquid. What’s more, scientists now believe that this is just one defect that Zika causes.
As a result, the CDC is leading a coordinated response, having gathered 300 officials from all levels of government, and other experts, to prepare for mosquito and therefore possibly Zika season.
(via Ars Technica)