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93.4M could become infected with Zika virus according to projection model

A new model of projections published by Notre Dame researcher T. Alex Perkins estimates approximately 93.4 million people could become infected with the Zika virus.

Zika, the mosquito-borne pathogen that can also be contracted through sexual contact, is reportedly spreading quickly across Central and South America.

There is no cure for the Zika virus, and currently no vaccine. In an estimated 80% of people who contract the virus, no symptoms develop at all.

However, the virus does pose serious health issues to certain people, pregnant women being chief among them.

According to Perkins' research, approximately "1.65 (1.45–2.06) million childbearing women [...] could become infected before the first wave of the epidemic concludes."

The main concern is the resulting birth defects that could occur including microcephaly which causes babies to have small heads and brains, mental and physical disabilities, seizures and even death.

Though the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), there is limited funding to develop a vaccine in the United States.

"Congressional funding is a problem," Perkins said.

Perkins' research did not include projections for the United States. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a significant number of cases in the U.S., most recently, 10 reported in Florida.

However, none of those cases appear to have been acquired locally, but rather as a result of travel to areas with breakouts.

Perkins says the best way to protect yourself is not traveling to those areas. He contends this is especially important for pregnant women.

We asked how long the Zika virus epidemic might last. His best estimate, sourced from a recent study, was about 3 years.

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