The Zika virus, which has been spreading throughout Latin America in recent weeks and causing birth defects via infection of expecting mothers, has just arrived in the US. Three Florida residents who had recently visited Latin American countries have contracted the virus, though there are no accounts of the virus being spread within the country. While Zika cannot be transmitted from human to human, the biggest concern about infection is for pregnant mothers and the unborn.

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Two of the infected Floridians had recently traveled to Columbia and the other had been to Venezuela. People do not become symptomatic until three to 12 days after being exposed via mosquito bite and, in 80 percent of cases, the infection goes completely unnoticed. Signs of the infection are similar to the flu: fever, headaches, and joint pain with the addition of rashes and conjunctivitis. For pregnant women, their unborn children becoming infected could mean the development of microcephaly, a birth defect in which infants’ brains and skulls develop to be abnormally small.

Related: Outbreak of mosquito-borne virus is shrinking babies’ brains throughout South America

Florida Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said this week, “We encourage Florida residents and visitors to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne illnesses by draining standing water, covering their skin with repellent and clothing, covering windows with screens.” The swift spread of the virus throughout South America and Caribbean countries in recent weeks has sparked understandable alarm. Officials in affected countries are even asking women to delay becoming pregnant out of fear their children will contract the virus. Currently, the US is warning pregnant women against traveling to 14 different Latin American countries as the virus is still spreading.

Via Discovery News

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