(SCIENCE NEWS) – The latest virus to break out of the tropics may be the most frightening.
Zika virus, which has already blazed across Brazil and pressed northward into Central America and Mexico, now is poised to jump to the United States. Infection typically causes minor or even no symptoms. But in pregnant women, it's been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which leaves babies with abnormally small heads and partially developed brains (SN Online: 12/2/15).
The mysterious tropical virus is an arbovirus, one of many that are spread by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. With the rise in international travel, the rapid emergence — and reemergence – of little known arboviruses such as Zika may be the new normal, Anthony Fauci and his colleague David Morens suggest January 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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"Dengue hit with a vengeance in the '90s. Then we had West Nile in 1999, chikungunya in 2013, and lo and behold, now we have Zika in 2015 and 2016," says Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. "This is a disturbing, remarkable pattern."