Zika Virus Spreads Throughout Latin America

 

The Zika virus is an infection that has been spreading rapidly throughout Central and South America. Health experts think it may be the cause of thousands of babies who are born with brains that are not fully developed.

The virus was first detected  in monkeys in Uganda shortly after World War II. In 1954, the first human was infected by the Zika virus in Nigeria . Since then cases have been reported in Africa , Southeast Asia and some Pacific Islands.

The symptoms of the disease are

  • fever
  • red eyes
  • headache
  • pain in the joints
  • rash

At the moment there is no cure for  the disease and a vaccination has not yet been found.

The Zika virus may be the reason why babies are born with small heads. Their brain has not developed in the way it should. This can prove to be fatal if the brain cannot control the basic functions of a child's life.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, that live in the tropical areas of Central and South America. They pass on the disease by biting people and drinking their blood. Up to now the Zika virus has not been considered to be a threat to global health. But last year it appeared in South America and spread rapidly across Brazil.

More than 20 countries have reported outbreaks of the virus. As many as four million people could be infected by the end of 2016. In El Salvador, the government has advised women not to become pregnant in the next three years.

Brazilian health authorities have stated that they are doing all they can to contain the virus. More and more money is being put into finding a vaccine for the disease.

The World Health Organisation says that the Zika virus could turn into a major pandemic that could spread to other parts of the world. Health authorities advise people who live in infected areas to  cover their bodies with long clothes, use  insect repellents  and shut doors and windows to keep insects out.

 

In today's world viruses spread faster because of modern travel. Brazilian health experts say that the Zika virus may have entered the country through a traveller who came from Polynesia. Brazil's authorities are concerned about the virus as it may affect the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which will be visited by millions of people.

 

Mosquito feeding on a human

A mosquito feeds on human blood and spreads the Zika virus - Image: JJ Harrison

 

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Words

  • advise = suggest
  • affect = to change something; influence something
  • appear = come up; to be seen; show itself
  • authorities = powerful organisation in the government that can make decisions about certain things
  • brain = organ inside your head that controls how you feel, think and the way you move
  • case = here: a person who has the disease
  • concerned = worried
  • consider = think, believe
  • contain = to keep in one place
  • cure = medicine that makes a sick person healthy again
  • detect = to find something that is hidden or difficult to see
  • develop = grow
  • disease = illness
  • fatal = deadly
  • fully = completely
  • global = worldwide
  • government = people who rule a country
  • infection = disease in your body that is passed on by a virus
  • insect repellent = substance that keeps insects away
  • joint = place where two bones are connected
  • major = here: important, very large
  • outbreak = when the disease suddenly appears
  • pandemic = a disease that spreads over a whole country or even the whole world
  • pass on = give from one person to another
  • Polynesia = region of the central Pacific Ocean with its many islands
  • pregnant = to have a baby inside your body
  • rapidly = very fast
  • rash = a lot of small red spots on the skin
  • spread = to move from one place to another
  • state = to say officially
  • symptom = a sign that something is wrong in your body
  • threat = danger
  • throughout = in all of
  • upcoming = something that will happen soon
  • vaccination = to give someone a vaccine to protect them from a disease
  • vaccine = a substance that has a weak form of a virus and protects people from the disease