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The Zika Virus

When diseases emerge at rapid rates, patients may not obtain the proper treatment or medical care. In some cases, injuries resulting from ineffective treatment may rise to the level of medical negligence. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the Zika virus to be an international public health emergency, according to an article in The New York Times. What do you need to know about this virus, and how can we ensure that it is properly treated?

Learning More About the Zika Virus

What is the Zika virus, and why is it suddenly a global problem? According to the article, the Zika virus is a tropical infection that is transmitted largely through mosquito bites. It is relatively new to the Western Hemisphere, and since last May it has been spreading rapidly following an outbreak in Brazil. Its name comes from the location of its discovery: the Zika forest, which is located in Uganda. It is related to other tropical mosquito-transmitted infections like dengue, yellow fever, and the West Nile virus. Unlike most people infected with those viruses, however, many people who become infected with Zika do not show symptoms and it typically does not have any long-term effects.

However, the virus can pose serious dangers in certain circumstances. Specifically, women who become infected with the Zika virus while pregnant have experienced serious repercussions in the form of catastrophic birth defects or aborted pregnancies.

Learning How Zika Spreads

The Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes. Specifically, mosquitoes of the Aedes genus transmit Zika (which typically bite during the day) are known for carrying Zika, as well as Aedes aegypti (or yellow fever mosquitoes, which are only common in states along the Gulf Coast and in Hawaii). In some cases, Aedes aegypti have been found in states as far north as Washington, D.C. during the summer months. And researchers have also identified the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus as a carrier of the virus, but we do not yet know whether it is an efficient transmitter.

In rare cases, the Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted. While “experts believe that the vast majority of all Zika infections are transmitted by mosquitoes,” there are a handful of reports of known sexual transmission.

Brain Damage and Other Serious Injuries

The primary concern with the Zika virus is not the short-term effects it has on those who contract it and develop symptoms. Rather, researchers and healthcare professionals are worried about potential birth injuries and defects caused by Zika. In short, Zika may play a role in the development of microcephaly in babies—a condition marked by “unusually small heads and often damaged brains,” according to the article. In Brazil—where the number of Zika cases has risen drastically—the number of infants born with microcephaly has grown rapidly from only about 150 cases to around 4,000. Researchers suspect the rise in the condition may be a result of pregnant women contracting the Zika virus. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a list of countries that pregnant women should avoid.

There is currently no recommended antiviral medication for Zika, and there is no vaccine to protect against the virus.

Contact a Philadelphia Injury Lawyer

If you were pregnant when you visited a country where the Zika virus is prevalent, you should speak with your healthcare provider immediately. And if you give birth to a child with a serious birth defect, a Philadelphia injury lawyer may be able to help. Contact Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, PC to learn more about seeking compensation.


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