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Health Officials Say Zika Virus Could End Up Spreading To North America

The potentially-lethal Zika virus could possibly spread to the US, health officials said.

According to CNN, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes the virus will soon make its way to all but two countries in South, Central and North America.

Canada and Chile didn't make the list because the type of mosquito carrying the virus does not live in those countries.

The Zika virus was first reported in Brazil last May and since spread to 21 countries and territories in the Americas.

It is transmitted via the bite of the Aedes mosquitos, the same insects carrying dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

The WHO said most people in the Americas were never exposed to the virus, which is why it is spreading so quickly.

A woman who recently had a baby in Hawaii reportedly contracted the virus in Brazil, but no other cases were reported in the US as of yet.

Three cases in the UK were reported over the weekend.

On its website, Public Health England reportedly wrote,

As of January 2016, three cases associated with travel to Colombia, Suriname and Guyana have been diagnosed in UK travelers.

Symptoms include low fever, rash, muscle pain, joint pain and pink eye, but 80 percent of patients don't even appear to be sick due to the mild nature of these symptoms.

What makes the Zika virus truly dangerous is its effect on pregnant women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

This is because the virus seems to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect resulting in developmental problems, brain damage and possibly death.

Cases of microcephaly reportedly skyrocketed in Brazil since the Zika virus emerged, resulting in the deaths of 46 infants over the course of just four months.

However, the CDC does not anticipate a widespread outbreak of the Zika virus in the US because cases of the other diseases carried by the Aedes mosquito were easily isolated.

Still, anyone traveling to the aforementioned nations is advised to use bug repellant and wear protective clothing throughout the day and night.

The CDC also recommended pregnant women who traveled to these countries be tested for the Zika virus.

Citations: WHO expects Zika virus to spread to all but 2 countries in the Americas (CNN)