If you watch the news you have undoubtedly heard about the Zika virus. This is not a new, previously unknown threat to health. The virus was initially isolated in 1947 from a rhesus macaque monkey in the Ugandan Zika Forest. It is related to the West Nile virus, the yellow fever virus, and the dengue fever virus. Although there is no vaccine available, the symptoms of infection in adults range from nonexistent to a mild fever with a rash. Sergio Cortes says cases resolve in 2 to 3 days with bed rest and fluids. The main danger is when the virus affects the fetus of pregnant women. Severe brain damage may occur in the unborn child.

The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquito bites. Until recently, it was assumed that transmission did not occur by other means of close contact. However, a patient in Texas has spread the virus through sexual contact according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department. This is the first case of transmission inside the USA. The patient contracted the disease from a person who had recently traveled to Venezuela. Blood transfusions are another way the virus may be transmitted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies are alarmed at how fast the virus is spreading. For example, over 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported since October 2015 in Brazil alone. Microcephaly is the term applied to an infant whose head is much smaller than average. This neurological condition may cause poor brain function, seizures, convulsions, spastic quadriplegia, and reduced life expectancy.