Zika virus spreading in Latin America

The Zika virus has spread rapidly across Latin America, transforming from a little-known, mild ailment to an international public health concern. The illness is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito and until recently was believed to only cause mild symptoms. There is now evidence linking Zika to a spike in cases of pregnant women giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with a smaller than normal head, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The CDC expects the virus to continue to spread and has urged pregnant women to avoid the two dozen countries where the virus is present so far and to take extra precaution to avoid mosquito bites.--By Emily Z. Fortier
Gleyse Kelly da Silva, 27, holds her daughter Maria Giovanna, who was born with microcephaly, outside their house in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 27. Brazilian officials still say they believe there is a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly and strongly suspect the Zika virus, which first appeared in the country last year, is to blame. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
A municipal worker gestures during an operation to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 26. Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Castro says the country is sending some 220,000 troops to battle the mosquito blamed for spreading a virus suspected of causing birth defects, but he also says the war is already being lost. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 27. The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus currently spreading throughout Latin America. New figures from Brazil’s Health Ministry show that the Zika virus outbreak has not caused as many confirmed cases of a rare brain defect as first feared. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
Felipe holds the head of his daughter Maria Geovana, who has microcephaly, at his house in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 25. Health authorities in the Brazilian state at the center of a rapidly spreading Zika outbreak have been overwhelmed by the alarming surge in cases of babies born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder associated to the mosquito-borne virus. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A pregnant woman stands at her house in a zone of the shanty town of Beco do Sururu, near Boa Viagem, the richest neighborhood of the city of Recife, Brazil, Jan. 22. (Percio Campos/EPA)
A Guillain-Barre syndrome patient recovers in the neurology ward at the Rosales National Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 27. The hospital reported an increase of Guillain-Barre syndrome cases since September 2015. Of the 85 patients attended to, one out of three tested positive for the Zika virus, according to the hospital. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)
Geovane Silva holds his son, Gustavo Henrique, who has microcephaly, at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 26. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A health ministry worker fumigates a house in Managua, Nicaragua to kill mosquitoes during a campaign against dengue and chikungunya, and to prevent the Zika virus from entering the country, Jan. 26. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)
The forearm of a public health technician is seen covered with sterile female Aedes aegyti mosquitoes after leaving a recipient to cultivate larvae, in a research area to prevent the spread of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, at the entomology department of the Ministry of Public Health in Guatemala City, Jan. 26. (Josue Decavele/Reuters)
A doctor performs a routine general check up for a pregnant woman, which includes examination for mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, at the maternity ward of the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 27. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)
Mylene Helena Ferreira holds her son David Henrique Ferreira, 5 months, who has microcephaly, on Jan. 25, in Recife, Brazil. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A health worker sprays insecticide on Jan. 26 at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the outdoor grounds where thousands of dancers and musicians will parade during the city’s Feb. 5-10 Carnival celebrations. (Leo Correa/Associated Press)
Mothers with their children, who have microcephaly, await medical care at the Hospital Oswaldo Cruz, in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 26, 2016. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A biologist working for British company Oxitec releases transgenic mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 26. Every week, 800,000 genetically modified mosquitoes are released in Piracicaba to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The transgenic mosquitoes mate with wild mosquitoes and transmit a lethal gene, preventing descendants from reaching maturity and decreasing the population of mosquitoes. (Sebastiao Moreira/EPA)
Ten-year-old Elison nurses his 2-month-old brother, Jose Wesley, at their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Dec. 23. Suspicion of the link between microcephaly and the Zika virus arose after officials recorded 17 cases of central nervous system malformations among fetuses and newborns after a Zika outbreak began last year in French Polynesia, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
A Health Ministry employee fumigates a home against the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, in Soyapango, near San Salvador, Jan. 27. Health authorities have issued a national alert against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. (Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of pregnant women wait at the maternity area of the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS) in Guatemala City on Jan. 26. Guatemala increased the monitoring of pregnant women because of the risk of infection by Zika virus. (Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)
Brazilian Army soldiers canvass a neighborhood informing the public of preventive methods and searching for potential breeding grounds in an effort to eradicate the mosquitos which transmit the Zika virus on Jan. 27 in Recife, Brazil. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A young man swings off a tire into a polluted and slow-moving canal in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 26. Stagnant water provides potential breeding sites for mosquitos. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Solange Ferreira bathes her son, Jose Wesley, in a bucket at their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Dec. 23. Ferreira says her son enjoys being in the water, and she places him in the bucket several times a day to calm him. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
A man washes his hands in a puddle in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 27. The Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives in puddles, nooks and crannies common in tropical cities peppered with chaotic and unplanned neighbourhoods, where rainwater, open sewers and litter offer ample habitat. (Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)
Public health workers participate in a day of fumigation to stop the spread of the Aedes aegypti in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 28. The fast spread of the Zika virus in the Americas has prompted the World Health Organization to discuss whether the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency. (Miguel Gutierrez/EPA)
A woman sits outside her house while a health ministry worker fumigates in Managua, Nicaragua, Jan. 26. Zika has not been contracted in Nicaragua yet. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)
A school girl steps over a puddle in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 27. Zika outbreaks have been reported in Haiti. (Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)
A health technician inspects a blood sample from a patient infected by the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito through a microscope at Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (INCIENSA) in Tres Rios, Costa Rica, Jan. 27. (Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters)
The larvae of Aedes aegyti mosquitos are seen inside a laboratory in the Ministry of Health in San Jose, Costa Rica on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday the first case of the Zika virus in the country, according to local media. (Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters)
A specialist fumigates the Nueva Esperanza graveyard in the outskirts of Lima on Jan. 15. Health officials fumigated the largest cemetery in Peru and second largest in the world, to prevent chikunguya and Zika virus, which has not yet been contracted in the country. (Ernesto Banavides/AFP/Getty Images)
Physical therapist Isana Santana treats Ruan Hentique dos Santos, suffering from microcephalia caught through an Aedes Aegypti mosquito bite, at Obras Socias Irma Dulce hospital in Salvador, Brazil on Jan. 28. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)
Nadja Cristina Gomes Bezerra sorts through the various medications she needs to buy for her 3-month-old daughter, Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, who has microcephaly, on Jan. 27 in Recife, Brazil. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A Health Ministry employee fumigates a home against the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in Soyapango, near San Salvador, Jan. 21. (Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images)
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