There's been a lot of hype around the globe surrounding the Zika virus. Here's what you need to know about this global phenomenon.

Zika virus is spread by animal or insect bites/stings, and Zika fever (caused by the virus) can't be cured (but treatment may help). The virus is related to yellow fever, West Nile, and dengue fever. Lab tests or imaging are often required for doctors to make a diagnosis, and symptoms are typically short-term, lasting only days to weeks. [Click HERE for Google's basic Zika virus facts PDF.]

There are 24 countries on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's list of countries with active virus transmission - 22 of which are in the Americas. Countries on the list include the following: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, Samoa, and Cape Verde.

Countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission. CDC
Countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission. CDC

Mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are not in Colorado, but travelers to countries and states where the insects live are being warned. According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's Dr. Jennifer House, Zika virus "goes as far north as the Carolinas and the southeastern states, particularly Florida and Texas...they do have the mosquito...[which] prefers to bite humans."

Women are being told to avoid getting pregnant until 2018. In El Salvador, that is. Zika virus has affected thousands of babies in Brazil, causing various newborns to be born with microcephaly - a birth defect in which babies have unusually small heads and abnormal brain development.

Zika virus will continue to spread, and it will be difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time. Outbreaks are currently occurring in many countries, though, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States - only in returning travelers.

There's a possibility that Zika virus might be sexually transmitted. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say evidence is insufficient to warrant such a warning, 2 cases have described the "theoretical risk" that the virus can be transmitted through sex.


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