Let's Get This Straight: There Is NOT A U.S. Zika Virus Outbreak

Photo: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images.
Multiple travelers returning to the United States — and now Canada — have brought the Zika virus back with them. But that doesn't mean we are experiencing an outbreak of the virus here. This is a key fact you should be repeating to all of your friends who are freaking out over this right now: The virus has yet to be transmitted within the U.S.

In order for that to happen, an Aedes mosquito would have to bite one of the currently infected people while the virus is still in their system, and then within the incubation period of 2-7 days, go on to feed on another person. It's true that the Aedes mosquito lives across many states in the American Southeast, as well as some southwestern states and California, making the concerns that it could come here very real. But since it's not mosquito season right now, the chances of an outbreak starting due to a group of isolated cases are very low. (Also good to note: In Canada there are zero Aedes mosquitoes, reducing the chances of a true outbreak occurring there to yep, zero. )

This also isn't the first time Zika has come to the U.S. Between 2007-14, 14 travelers tested positive for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Furthermore, for most of those who do happen to find themselves with a Zika infection in our region, the fallout is likely to be low. Zika causes flu-like symptoms for some people, but for most, there are no signs. Importantly, for most people, it will clear up on its own without any long-term complications.

That said, the current outbreak "spreading explosively," as the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) put it Thursday, is still very much a concern in Brazil (where it started in 2015) and other South and Central American countries, and it could soon become a real concern in certain parts of the U.S. This, along with the newly discovered links to Guillain-Barre syndrome and birth defects, make Zika a very real, scary thing.

But for right now, you can rest assured that there is no current outbreak in the U.S. And there is actually a lot you can do to protect yourself from mosquito bites if you're traveling to some of these countries — public health agencies are on it. The WHO called an emergency meeting for Monday to discuss an action plan, and President Barack Obama has called for rapid development of tests and treatments for it.

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