Zika Virus Concerns Intensify Within North America

The confirmed numbers of those affected by the Zika within North America has resulted in a heavier precautions

If you haven't yet heard of the Zika virus, you must have been sequestered or involved in some sort of media black out. So we're here to get you up to speed and fill you in on everything that's been happening surrounding this potentially devastating virus.

The concern over the Zika virus has continued to increase over the past week. New cases are accumulating every day. There have been thirty-one confirmed cases of the Zika virus being contracted by US citizens who have travelled. Three recent cases have been found in New York. Two cases have also been found in B.C., bringing the total affected to three within Canada.

The World Health Organization is asking scientists within the medical community to collaborate towards finding a cure for the virus. There is a possibility of a Canadian-U.S. vaccine in the works, which they are hoping will be available for emergency use by the end of the year. 

Meanwhile in Canada, the Canadian Blood Services has made the decision to reject all blood donations from travellers coming back from trips in the affected countries. 

Dana Devine, chief and scientific officer for Canadian Blood Services, said that donations coming from those who have travelled to affected countries will be refused for "a number of weeks" after they have returned to Canada. She asserted that the exact amount of time has yet to be determined. 

“We think it is the wise thing to do,” Dr. Devine said, when discussing the possibility of getting the Zika virus from blood as being “really pretty tough, but not impossible.”

The warning for women—especially those who are pregnant—to avoid trips to these countries is becoming so critical that airlines and cruise companies across the world are allowing refunds or flight changes. However, this accomodation is not for all travellers, but for "women and their travel companions" who are pregnant. WestJet and Air Canada are among the many, although, Air Canada advises that a medical note from a doctor is needed to make these changes without penalty.

On their website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has kept the Zika virus at a warning level of three, meaning to “practice enhanced precautions.” The virus has gone from a mild precaution in only a couple of months to one that is extremely high. However, it has yet to be declared as an international pandemic. On Thursday, the decision to confirm it as an international health emergency by The World Health Organization was said to be sometime next week.

“For the average American who is not traveling to this area, there is nothing they need to worry about,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Whether the Zika virus is a direct cause of the birth defect microcephaly, if the virus can be contracted through blood or sexual transmission, or if it can be prevented on a whole. Only time and research will tell. 

For now, it is best to avoid Latin America and the Caribbean, especially if you are pregnant or are considering pregnancy, and to take the necessary precautions if you happen to visit them. Zika is transmitted though mosquitos, so be sure to cover up and use bug spray if you are travelling.

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