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Zika virus outbreak: All you need to know

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has now been discovered in about 16 countries, including the United States. Health officials in countries, such as El Salvador and Brazil are combating the outbreak with drastic measures. Here is what you need to know about the outbreak that has alerted health officials around the world.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday, advised women to postpone travelling to 21 countries that includes popular vacation spots, including Mexico, Barbados and Dominican Republic. According to CDC, the virus is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, mostly found in tropical areas such as Southeast Asia, Africa and Pacific Islands. The mosquitoes are aggressive during daytime, and in some cases the virus is also transferred from the mother to the child, during or shortly after birth. One case of the virus spreading through sexual contact has also been reported.

The virus was recently reported in Polynesia, Africa and South Africa, but now it has been found in Central and South America. According to Washington Post, there has been five confirmed cases in the U.S — Texas, Hawaii, New Jersey, Florida and Illinois; all of which were caused by patients who traveled to countries with the infections. This month, El Salvador’s health department revealed that it had found 492 Zika cases, and has urged women to delay pregnancy until 2018, to prevent possible birth defects linked to the virus. In Brazil, the government has asked the military to assist health officials, in the bid to eradicate the virus.

The CDC has issued a advisiory for 24 countries and territories: French Guiana, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Columbia, Honduras, Martinique, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Barbados, Bolivia, U.S Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Cape Verde, Saint Martin, Guyana and Samoa.

Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly birth defect cases, where babies have smaller or malformed heads, resulting in serious developmental delays,. Symptoms of the disease include rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis and fever. According to the CDC, serious complications are rare and most people overcome the symptoms within a week. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus. However, doctors are providing supportive care and there is a treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome, which helps in curing temporary paralysis.

The CDC has advised the use of EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, long-sleeved clothes and clothing and gear treated with permethrin. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for speeding up the research for vaccines and treatments, to cure the disease. Medical and government officials around the world are monitoring the outbreak, even as they try to find a cure.

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