The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease causing birth defects, will reach all but two countries in North, Central and South America.
Canada and continental Chile aren’t supposed to be impacted by the virus, as neither country has the Aedes mosquitoes that are the dominant vectors. Zika cases have been reported in Brazil since May 2015.
After news of the local cases broke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning for pregnant women to avoid traveling to nearby countries including Bolivia, Guyana and Venezuela. Simultaneously, the CDC suggested that those whom had recently traveled to the countries on the warning list while being pregnant be screened and monitored.
Pregnant women are the target demographic for monitoring the Zika because it has been connected to microcephaly, a neurological condition that leads to small heads and serious, long-term and potentially deadly developmental delays for infants. There is no prevention or treatment for Zika. The most that can be done is wear mosquito repellent and conceal skin that would otherwise be exposed to avoid mosquito bites.
WHO says the virus is spreading quickly because people in the Americas have yet to be exposed to it before, meaning that they haven’t built an immunity to fight off the disease. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes that can last up to a week. However, most people infected with Zika—exactly 80 percent—never display symptoms.
Read more on the virus at CNN.