What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is an arbovirus transmitted by mosquitoes. The Zika virus is thought to be linked to a rise in the cases of a birth defect called microcephaly. This defect leaves a baby with an abnormally small head and a shorter life expectancy. The baby’s brain is also small and is not completely developed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed lab tests that suggest a link between the Zika virus and some of the more than 3,500 babies born in Brazil with microcephaly in 2015. The CDC is advising women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid countries in South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, where the virus is rapidly spreading.

What causes the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is spread by mosquito bites from infected mosquitoes. In most cases, these mosquitoes are found in tropical regions.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?

Symptoms usually are mild, and include:

  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Conjunctivitis (pinkeye)
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the muscles and joints

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