In case you haven't heard, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an alert that warns pregnant women against travelling to countries affected by a Zika outbreak.
If like me, Zika is not on your radar, here's what you need to know:
Much like malaria, Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes and has caused birth defects and deaths in newborns in Brazil. But Brazil isn't the only country where the virus has been detected. The following countries have all reported cases of Zika:
Zika was discovered in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women in Brazil. It's believed that the virus can lead to a congenital brain defect called microcephaly or death of newborns. So while more research is necessary, the CDC warns pregnant women, as well as women trying to become pregnant to avoid travel to all of the above 14 countries - particularly the Americas, where the virus is rapidly spreading.
Those who plan to travel to the affected areas should contact their doctors. Other travellers should wear repellent and wear long sleeves.
Though Zika has been around for decades, it wasn't really been on the map prior to the outbreak in Brazil, where an estimated 1.5 million have had it this past year alone.
In most people, Zika triggers mild symptoms - including a rash, joint pain, headaches, and fever - between three to 12 days after mosquito bite. The symptoms typically fade within a week, and one in four people don’t even become ill after being infected.
But given the incidence in Brazil this past year - and the ensuing increase in the related birth defect - public health officials are taking Zika more seriously, hence the CDC's alert.
Tragically, two babies with Zika detected in their brains died within 24 hours of being born.
Until more research has been conducted, please exercise caution if you are travelling to affected countries. Please share this information with anyone who may be considering a trip south, particularly women who may become pregnant.