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Zika, the mosquito-borne virus: Should you be scared?

Until recently, only few people have heard of the Zika virus. With the recent outbreak changes are you are infected as well. A Zika patient describes the symptoms.

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The Zika virus is still relatively unknown and understudied, unlike other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue. However, it is going to change now that Zika virus is spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean. It has been associated with babies born in Brazil with abnormally small heads and brain defects. This condition is called microcephaly.

Uriel Ktron, chair of Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences, said, "The microcephaly cases are a personal tragedy for the families whose babies are affected. They will need much care and support, some of them for decades. The costs to the public health system will be enormous, and Brazil was already experiencing an economic crisis."

In the past, especially in the past few years, Kitron has worked with Brazilian scientists and health officials in a bid to study dengue virus, which is spread by the same mosquito species, Aedis aegypti. The focus of the collaboration is now switched to Zika. Kitron plans to go back to Salvador, the capital of Bahia, a Brazilian state, in February to support the research strategies and control efforts of the possible outbreak.

Since the outbreak in the northeastern Brazil last spring, an estimated 500,000 to 1,5 million people were infected by the virus. The symptoms include a rash, joint pains, fever and inflammation of the eyes.

Unfortunately, less than 80 percent of people infected are asymptomatic.