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The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

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What is the Zika virus? Zika is a virus spread my mosquito bites. When a pregnant women contracts Zika, the virus can cause birth defects in her baby.

What types of birth defects are caused by Zika? The most well-known birth defect associated with Zika is microcephaly, a condition where a baby's brain does not develop properly, leading to serious health problems and developmental delays. The condition is often characterized by a baby born with an abnormally small head. 

In what countries does Zika occur? Causes of Zika have been found in dozens of countries around the world, including in the United States. However, it is most common in warm, tropical countries. In the United States, 139 cases have been been reported in Florida as of late October, 2016. For an up-to-date list of affected countries, see the CDC's webpage.

How widespread is Zika in the United States? While it's always important to use caution, even at home, Zika is still extremely rare in the U.S.

How can you avoid contracting Zika? The best way to avoid Zika is to avoid any unnecessary travel to places with Zika outbreaks. Your partner should avoid travel to affected areas, too, as Zika can be sexually transmitted.

Avoid mosquitoes when you are pregnant, especially in Zika-prone areas. Wear insect repelant, long pants and long sleeves, and make sure your doors and windows have screens. Empty standing water from your property, and be cautious when hiking, camping, or spending time outdoors in mosquito-infested areas.

What are the symptoms of Zika? Often, Zika does not present any obvious symptoms. However, you can experience a rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, fever, or nausea. if you have been in an area with a Zika outbreak and experience any suspicious symptoms, call your health provider right away.

Zika remains an extremely rare illness in the United States, and one isolated to only a few areas - however, avoiding mosquitoes is a way to give yourself peace of mind (and avoid any other possible mosquito-borne illnesses, too).

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