Zika virus (or ZIKV) was initially discovered in 1947, but the mosquito-borne disease has been slowly spreading across the globe, moving from Africa and Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands and South America. Recently, the disease entered Brazil, and all signs point to this country becoming a new home for local transmission.
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The virus’s arrival in the country means travelers should be especially careful and take extra precautions to avoid infection. Much like dengue fever, there is no vaccine, cure or preventative medication for Zika virus outside of repellents and taking normal anti-mosquito measures.
Because Zika virus is comparatively new (until 2007, there were only sporadic cases in the Southeast Asian region), there are still many questions about the virus. Symptoms are not specific and can vary, but they usually include mild fever, rash and conjunctivitis (pink eye). The disease is often confused with dengue and chikungunya, two other mosquito-borne diseases that have been spreading in recent years.
Prior to an outbreak in French Polynesia, Zika was thought to only cause mild symptoms. But, individuals in the affected area were diagnosed with some severe neurological complications like Guillain-Barre syndrome. No deaths have been attributed to Zika virus in the nearly 70 years since its discovery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best method of avoiding Zika is by using repellents or other mosquito resisting measures. Cases of imported Zika virus are on the rise, so please take all necessary precautions when traveling to prevent both illness and potentially bringing the disease back home.
To learn more about Zika, feel free to visit the our Zika virus page.