Aather startling virus has quickly moved from Africa to Brazil and now to Houston, Texas, according to NBC.
The Zika virus, being investigated in Brazil for possible ties to severe birth defects, was brought into the United States by a tourist, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told NBC, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
The CDC told reporters that 22 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the United States since 2007 and that they are still receiving specimens from tourists who became ill following their travels, according to Yahoo News.
While experts say the disease is not likely to spread across the entire country, some scientists are concerned because of the potential risks it poses for babies in the womb, according to NBC’s January 2016 report.
The Zika virus shares similarities to dengue fever, including where it can spread. This particular virus is another mosquito-transported illness. The disease is typically carried by the Aedes aegyptus mosquito. These mosquitoes only live in tropical climates. However, the Aedes albopictus sometimes carries the virus and this type of mosquito travels farther in the summer months, increasing the area of potential infection, according to NBC.
Gulf Coast cities like New Orleans are prime areas for this type of outbreak because the climate and swampy lands are ideal for mosquito populations. “I am quite worried about Zika taking off on the Gulf Coast. We have both species of mosquitoes that can transmit the virus. There’s the right level of poverty and tropical climate,” Dr. Peter Hotez told NBC News.
Areas of Brazil and Latin America have been hit with widespread cases of the virus, though more people may have contracted it. The virus is typically mild in most adults so many people may not even realize they even have it, according to NBC.
“The problem with it is we have to act now. This is such an unusual virus. You won’t know you had a Zika outbreak until nine months later, when babies start being born with microcephaly,” Hotez told NBC.
While some scientists have expressed doubt that the virus directly causes microcephaly, recent numbers show an increase of cases may be linked to the virus, including two cases in which amniotic fluid from mothers of infants with microcephaly tested positive for the virus, according to NBC.
Currently there is no vaccine and no treatment from the virus. Symptoms include low fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to NBC.