Florida health officials reported three news cases of mosquito-borne #Zika Virus, on Thursday. Out of the three cases, two patients acquired infection locally in Miami dating to October 2016, while the third case is from 2017. A total of 1,325 Zika cases were confirmed in 2016, whereas 13 cases of infection have been reported 2017 in Florida alone, which includes four pregnant women.

The report

CDC released a study on Thursday saying that Zika is one of the major causes of Microcephaly which results in an abnormally small skull in a growing fetus, usually caused by improper brain development while in-utero. Additionally, they provided evidence that Zika rates and areas of exposure are expanding at an alarming rate.

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"Data on #Birth Defects in the pre-Zika years serve as benchmarks to direct rapid ascertainment and reporting of birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection", said Janet D. Cragan, MD, (CDC). She further said, "The higher proportion of these defects among pregnancies with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection supports the relationship between congenital Zika virus infection and birth defects,"

She further explained that even if a mother with the virus has a child without microcephaly at birth, the brain can later stop developing as it should during infancy. To be clear, many women with the virus have healthy babies with little or no complications. However, in order to be as safe as possible, steps should be taken in order to prevent the risk before and during pregnancy.

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But what exactly is Zika?

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitos, much like West Nile virus. Zika can also be spread through sex, much like an STI. The virus can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, which is when the infection can cause severe birth defects such as microcephaly. Most adults may not be aware that they are infected with Zika since the symptoms are similar to other illnesses like the #Common cold. For reference, some of the symptoms are red eyes, fever, and headaches.

Zika virus doesn’t always mean birth defects

Aside from microcephaly, birth defects caused by Zika virus include eye damage, joints that don’t work properly, too much muscle tone, which inhibits motion and can cause pain in the infant, or even spina bifida. The risk for these particular birth defects are twenty percent higher in infected women, but that does not mean these women have no chance of a healthy baby. Women infected with the virus during pregnancy can still have healthy children; the odds are just much higher that they won’t as compared to non-infected women.

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The good news is that the odds of these birth defects start out low enough that even the increased risk is still a low probability. When talking about these types of life-altering outcomes though, any increase in risk can be very scary. The risks of these birth defects are twenty percent higher regardless of the mother’s age, ethnicity, or even health.

Areas affected by Zika

Being infected with the virus is still very rare in the US. In fact, the virus has only recently been diagnosed for people in the US. It was actually first diagnosed back in 1947 in a forest named “Zika” in Uganda. Currently, the virus has spread to multiple countries, with higher concentrations in areas of Southeast Asia and most recently in South America. The only confirmed cases in the US have been in South Florida and Brownsville, Texas. While the risk of serious complications are rare, the risks of birth defects for a pregnant woman is high. All pregnant women, their partners, and really everyone should be sure to take necessary precautions to prevent health complications for themselves and babies that could develop serious and even life-threatening birth defects from the Zika virus.