25 Percent Of The World Is Affected By Zika

by Cate Carrejo

A new outbreak of the Zika virus was found in Singapore on Sunday, redoubling fears of a global pandemic of the enigmatic virus. Zika has plagued scientists and politicians since early this year, when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak in Brazil a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February. There are over 50 countries that have Zika right now, and based on the sudden clustered outbreak in Singapore, the spread of the virus won't stop anytime soon.

Since February, more than 11,000 cases have been reported in the United States, and that's a small proportion in comparison to countries like Brazil and Mexico. As the virus continues to spread throughout the world, threatening the litany of dangerous side effects that are currently associated with it, the probability of contracting the disease grows, particularly depending on where you live.

Almost every country in Central and South America and the Caribbean has widespread Zika transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The few countries without Zika in that region include Chile and Uruguay, which both have subtropical climates that are slightly less hospitable to the mosquitoes that carry the virus. Both countries are also currently in their winter season, meaning transmissions could begin to appear during the Southern Hemisphere's summer. Most countries in the South Pacific also have widespread or sporadic transmission, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and American Samoa. Now, adding Singapore to the list will increase the CDC's list of affected areas to 57, more than one-quarter of the world's countries.

Local Zika transmission reached the continental United States in late July, later than some experts had predicted, and hasn't caused too much of a stir yet. Four cases of the virus in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida were reported as the first instances where the individual was infected with the virus by a mosquito in the U.S. Almost every state, save Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska, has reported cases of the virus, but the patients were infected through another method of transmission. Besides mosquitos, Zika can be sexually transmitted, transmitted from a woman to a fetus in-utero, or transmitted through blood donation or laboratory contact.

It's incredibly hard to predict how viruses will change and spread, and both of those uncertainties contribute to the difficulty of tracking the virus. For all the known cases, there could be thousands or millions more unknown — the virus only presents symptoms in 20 percent of cases. Until the virus can be eradicated, there is an inherent risk to traveling in tropical and subtropical climates.