First there was malaria, then yellow fever, then dengue (see my post of 31 July 2013), then it was chikungunya (see my post of 21 May 2014), now it is zika – all of them spread by mosquitoes. In the case of zika, now moving through Latin America and the Caribbean, it is the same mosquito (see picture) that spreads dengue and yellow fever.
If a pregnant woman is infected with zika, it is believed the virus can cause her baby to have an abnormally small head – a condition known as microcephaly, which is often caused by the failure of the brain to develop at its usual speed. Nearly 4,000 such babies have been born in Brazil since October, and 49 have died.
A number of countries including Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica, have advised women to delay becoming pregnant until more is known about the disease, which was first identified in Africa in the 1940s. Some believe it was introduced to Brazil during the World Cup in 2014.
There is no known cure for zika, and the only way to prevent it is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry it. In Brazil, they are working to clear stagnant water where the insects breed.