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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

President Obama Calls For Urgent Action, More Research On Zika Virus

Dr. Angela Rocha, a pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital, examines Ludmilla Hadassa Dias de Vasconcelos (2 months), who has microcephaly, on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. At least 12 cases in the United States have now been confirmed by the CDC. Brazil reported the first cases in the Americas of local transmissions of the virus last year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Dr. Angela Rocha, a pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital, examines a 2-month-old babywith microcephaly, on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Obama is calling for urgent action and research into the Zika virus, which is now active across much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Zika is a mosquito-borne illness that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause serious birth defects in babies, including a condition called microcephaly, in which babies are born with small heads and under-developed brains.

The CDC is now warning women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to avoid travel or take precautions in the nearly two dozen countries with Zika virus.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Helen Branswell, who covers infectious diseases and public health for STAT, the new national health and medicine publication, about what is known and not yet known about Zika, and what people can do to protect themselves.

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