The forearm of a public health technician covered with sterile female mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Picture: REUTERS
The forearm of a public health technician covered with sterile female mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Picture: REUTERS

What Are The Symptoms?

Zika, which is spread to people through mosquito bites, mostly causes fever, a rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is mild. Symptoms begin two to seven days after a bite by an infected mosquito and they last from several days to a week. Hospitalisation for the disease is uncommon.

Why Is It Of Concern?

Women infected with Zika (primarily in Brazil) are reported to have given birth to babies with neurological damage and heads that are smaller than normal.

How Serious Is Its Spread?

In May 2015, the first confirmed Zika infection was recorded in Brazil, though it had previously been seen in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Brazil may now have as many as 1.5m infected people. Zika has since spread to 21 other South American countries.

Is A Vaccine Available?

No vaccines are available to prevent people from contracting Zika, which was previously considered to be a benign disease.

What Is The Global Response?

The World Health Organisation this week declared Zika a global public health emergency because of its link to birth defects. It put Zika in the same category of concern as Ebola, which means research and aid to tackle it will be fast-tracked.

Source: FM research; Centers for Disease Control

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