Vietnam confirmed the country’s first two cases of Zika virus Tuesday.
Thanh Long, Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Health Nguyen, told a Vietnamese newspaper that two women, aged 64 and 33, tested positive for the virus out of 1,215 samples taken from suspected cases.
The younger woman is eight weeks pregnant.
Zika virus infections in pregnant women have been linked to fetal deaths and to potentially devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head. Organizations such as the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both suspect that two neurological disorders, the birth defect microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, are linked to the mosquito-born Zika virus. WHO actually stated in February that a link could be proven within weeks.
Laboratory studies have confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.
The virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which lives in tropical climates. Outbreaks have a history of occurring in Southeast Asia according to the CDC, but not in Vietnam. The World Health Organization has said the virus has been reported in 61 countries, mostly in Latin America and Western Pacific region, not in Asia. The virus has become extremely common in Brazil.
A study published in March by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito could spread as far north as New York City this summer if the weather is warmer than average,
The Zika virus likely won’t spread as prolifically in the U.S. as it has in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the high amount of Americans living and working behind air-conditioned doors. The study also found that small numbers of the mosquitoes can survive in much of North America during spring and fall when temperatures cool.
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