It has been just over a year since we first started hearing about Zika and its link to serious birth defects.
The Emergency Operations Center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was activated to respond to Zika on January 22, 2016. Now the EOC is gearing up for the start of another mosquito season.
Over the past fifteen months the CDC has learned more about the mosquito borne disease. Experts have learned that 11 percent of babies born to mothers with Zika are born with birth defects.
Microcephaly is the main birth defect that is seen. It causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads. Microcephaly is also associated with incomplete brain development.
Dr. Denise Jamieson is chief of the Women’s Health and Fertility Branch at the CDC. She says, “Zika is not over, Zika will be here with us until we have an effective vaccine and all pregnant women are vaccinated."
She says microcephaly is just the beginning. Zika is also linked to other brain abnormalities, eye defects or central nervous system problems.
“I think it's critical that people understand that we have to continue to be vigilant in our efforts to fight Zika," Jamieson says.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. They are very hard to control. Some experts call them "the cockroach" of mosquitos.
Zika can also spread through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her partners.
It can be passed through sex, even if the infected person does not have symptoms at the time. Zika can be passed on from mothers to babies in the womb – which leads to babies being born with severe birth defects.
One of the best ways to prevent catching Zika is to prevent being bitten by a mosquito.
As we head into mosquito season the CDC is urging everyone to take steps to protect themselves by wearing insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts and trousers, and avoid travel to areas where the virus is spreading.