The Zika virus has infected many more pregnant women in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of pregnant women who have contracted the Zika virus has tripled, going from 48 to 157. There are also 122 pregnant women who have the Zika virus in U.S. territories, according to CNN.
The Zika virus can cause children to be born with abnormally small heads, called microcephaly, and these pregnant women are being monitored to look for signs of this condition, according to Scientific American. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, which makes pregnant women in tropical climates especially vulnerable. Zika can also be spread through sexual contact.
There are many possible symptoms that can come with contracting the Zika virus, including rashes, fever and joint pain. That said, many of the women who tested positive for Zika in these new numbers showed little-to-no symptoms.
The CDC will continue to update Zika numbers weekly, informing the public of the latest count every Thursday at noon.
The Zika virus is the first mosquito-born virus to show congenital effects, which means it affects the outcome of a pregnancy in specific ways.
The CDC said in its statement on Zika that it is very difficult to find exact numbers for how many women have actually contracted the virus, as there are many variables that could cause the number to be underreported.
The CDC began tracking the number of pregnant women who have contracted the virus because many women who appeared to have symptoms that did not match Zika’s profile or who had no symptoms at all were bearing children with birth defects like microcephaly.
It is believed most of the pregnant women who contracted the virus either traveled outside the U.S. and were bitten by mosquitoes or had sexual contact with people who had recently traveled outside the U.S.
There is currently no vaccine for helping reduce Zika infections, according to the BBC, but it’s highly unlikely anyone who contracts the virus will die from it.
President Barack Obama has requested nearly $2 billion for fighting and researching the Zika virus so far, but the House of Representatives and the Senate have been proposing much lower budgets. The House has proposed $622 million, and the Senate has proposed $1.1 billion.
“We didn’t just choose $1.9 billion from the top of our heads,” President Obama said on Friday, according to ABC. “This was based on public health assessments of all the work that needs to be done and to the extent that we want to be able to feel safe and secure.”
“This is a pretty modest investment for us to get those assurances,” he added.
The news of what has happened in the United States comes as Africa is fearing the spread of the virus. Reports indicate Cape Verde, a cluster of islands off the coast of northwest Africa, has seen many cases of Zika. Some estimate Cape Verde could have as many as 7,000 cases of the virus. This outbreak of the Zika virus originated in Brazil.
“This information will help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa, according to the BBC.
Medical authorities in that region of Africa are taking measures to help reduce mosquito bites and are advising against unsafe sexual contact.
Americans in northern states do not currently have a significant cause for concern when it comes to contracting the Zika virus, as it is mostly affecting those in the southernmost parts of the country. That said, it’s always possible a virus can find its way to an unlikely area.
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