Viruses are infectious agents that grow and multiply in living cells and can cause diseases. The Zika virus is typically spread to humans through contact with mosquitoes. The mosquito species that transmit the Zika virus have distinct black and white markings and bite during the day. When a mosquito bites, it punctures through the skin to access a blood vessel. The virus leaves the salivary glands and enters into the bloodstream. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. These symptoms can last up to a week. A person may not realize they are infected with the Zika virus because often times the symptoms are mild or, in some cases, don’t exist. Yet the Zika virus remains a serious concern for pregnant women because the virus can pass from the mother to the fetus. A fetus that contracts the virus is at risk for brain defects, including microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition that occurs when the brain develops abnormally and results in a small head. The virus stays in the body for only a few weeks. After the body destroys the virus, there are no longer symptoms or risks and the person may be immune to future Zika infections. The Zika virus can also spread through sexual contact with an infected person or through blood transfusions.
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