Though the Zika virus was discovered in the 1940s, the current outbreak in the Americas is unlike anything ever seen. There is still much to learn about how this mosquito-borne virus, which is similar to yellow fever, affects humans.
Researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil have now announced that the active virus has been detected in saliva and urine samples, but they do not currently know if it can be transmitted through contact with these fluids. According to the Associated Press, the researchers are working diligently to better understand the risk.
It was previously known that Zika was transmitted from Aedes mosquitoes, but recently the CDC confirmed a case in Texas that had been sexually transmitted by someone who had been traveling through Zika-infected regions of South America.
There is a correlation between Zika infections and the number of cases of microcephaly affecting unborn babies. A definitive cause-and-effect relationship has yet to be established, but health officials say that it is likely.
Many women in South American countries lack access to birth control and abortion services, but the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights is urging countries to remedy this.
Currently, all cases of Zika in the US were contracted after visits to infected locations, but the virus is very likely to spread North as the seasons change and it gets warm enough for mosquitoes to be a threat, particularly in the Southeastern states.
Management techniques for mosquito populations are currently being discussed, and will become more crucial in the coming months.
Want to help? Donate to organizations like UNICEF. They're working in the hardest-hit areas to slow the spread of the disease and provide resources to those who've been affected.
Cover image: Brazil Photo Press/CON/Getty Images