4 Things To Know About Zika’s Potential Spread To The U.S.

A mosquito-borne virus that may have caused serious birth defects for thousands of babies in Brazil made its way to Puerto Rico by the end of last year, and experts are grappling with what this means — if anything — for North America.

Zika has been characterized in the past as an annoying but generally harmless sickness, with symptoms like rash, fever, joint-pain and red eyes. In fact, about one in four who get infected with disease probably don’t even notice they have it.

But when the virus became widespread in Brazil in 2015, with an estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million residents contracting Zika, health officials noticed that it coincided with a sharp increase in microcephaly, a condition in which a fetus’ brain doesn’t grow to full size and the baby is born with an abnormally small head.

Between 2010 and 2014, Brazil had an average of 156 babies born with microcephaly each year. But in 2015, over 3,000 babies were born with the condition, reports The Wall Street Journal. So far, authorities are investigating these babies, as well as deaths that are suspected to be linked to microcephaly, to see if they harbor any trace of the Zika virus.

If Zika follows the same migratory patterns as other mosquito-borne viruses like dengue fever and the chikungunya virus, experts say Texas, Florida and Hawaii could be at risk of an outbreak in the future.

With that in mind, here are four things you should know about Zika and its potential spread to the U.S.

1. The link between Zika virus and microcephaly is suspected, but not confirmed.

The lifelong consequences of microcephaly could include mental retardation, developmental delays, dwarfism and seizures, although some children with the condition grow up to have normal intelligence and —> Read More