The Zika virus — a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue, has now spread to more than 11 countries, including Brazil, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guatemala and Columbia, with the World Health Organisation (WHO), stating that the outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all of the Americas, with at least twelve cases in the United States already confirmed by the CDC.

Exterminators have begun fumigating homes across the Americas in order to kill mosquitoes which may carry the disease.

Recife, the capital of the Brazilian northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the regions that has been heavily effected by the virus, with health officials reporting that they believe as many as 100,000 people have been exposed to it but worryingly will never develop symptoms, making it harder to track. Authorities have advised that in order to prevent transmission, people should avoid places with stagnant water where the insects breed. The also recommend using repellent and wearing clothing that covers your body.

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A woman tries to cover a child near a municipal worker spraying insecticide at the neighbourhood of Imbiribeira in Recife, BrazilUeslei Marcelino/ Reuters
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Matheus Lima ,22, holds his son Pietro, 2 month, suffering from microcephalia caught through an Aedes Aegypti mosquito bite, at his home in Salvador, BrazilChristophe Simon/ AFP
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A technician from Oxitec inspects pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Campinas, BrazilPaulo Whitaker/ Reuters
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Children bathe in a pool on the street in Recife, Pernambuco state, BrazilMario Tama/ Getty Images
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Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, 3 months old, who has microcephaly, sleeps in her crib in Recife, BrazilMario Tama/ Getty Images
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A house worker protects himself as city workers fumigate the Centro America neighbourhood as part of preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in San Salvador, El SalvadorJose Cabezas/ Reuters
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A man and his son stand outside their house while a health ministry worker fumigates to kill mosquitoes during a campaign against dengue and chikungunya and to prevent the entry of Zika virus in Managua, NicaraguaOswaldo Rivas/ Reuters
Zika virus
A health ministry worker fumigates a house to kill mosquitoes during a campaign against dengue and chikungunya and to prevent the entry of Zika virus in Managua, NicaraguaOswaldo Rivas/ Reuters
Zika virus
A health ministry worker fumigates a house to kill mosquitoes during a campaign against dengue and chikungunya and to prevent the entry of Zika virus in Managua, NicaraguaOswaldo Rivas/ Reuters

Although cases of Zika are not too serious for adults, with symptoms similar to the flu with a lifespan no longer than seven days, it is pregnant women who are at the highest risk, especially their unborn baby, though the mechanics of how the virus directly affect babies remain unclear. What is known is that the virus seriously affects the development of the unborn foetus, meaning that the child is born with suspected microcephaly — abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. This suggests that the virus affects the development of the baby when inside the womb, resulting in many of the foetuses being miscarried, or dying shortly after birth. Those who survive tend to suffer from severe health problems.

First discovered in a monkey in 1947 in the Zika Forest, Uganda, the Zika virus went on to appear ten years later in Nigeria, with the first confirmed outbreak occurring in Micronesia island of Yap in 2007. There were around 180 confirmed cases. Venezuela now has recorded 4,700 suspected cases of people infected by the Zika virus, which is thought to cause brain damage in babies, the health ministry has said.

The Government of Nicaragua announced a plan in order to stop the Zika virus from arriving in the country. A Nicaraguan government spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo, announced a new positive case of Zika in Managua city, bringing confirmed cases in the country to three.

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A Health Ministry employee fumigates against Aedes Aegypti mosquito, at a home in Caracas, VenezuelaJuan Barreto/ AFP
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A Health Ministry employee fumigates against Aedes Aegypti mosquito, at a home in Caracas, VenezuelaJuan Barreto/ AFP
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A public health technician extracts Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from a cage, in a research area to help prevent the spread of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, at the entomology department of the Minister of Public Health, in Guatemala CityJosue Decavele/ Reuters
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Pregnant women wait for a general routine checkup, which includes Zika screening, at the maternity ward of a hospital in Guatemala City, GuatemalaJosue Decavele/ Reuters
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Trays with the larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquito are seen in a research area to help prevent the spread of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, at the entomology department of the Minister of Public Health, in Guatemala City, GuatemalaJosue Decavele/ Reuters
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Researcher Clara Ocampo, Leader and Coordinator of Research in Biology and Vector Control of the International Training and Medical Research Center works with Aedes aegypti mosquitos in Cali, ColombiaJaime Saldarriaga/ Reuters
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A Health Secretary employee fumigates against mosquito Aedes Aegypti mosquito inside a house in Cali, ColombiaLuis Robayo/ AFP
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A Health Secretary employee fumigates against mosquito Aedes Aegypti mosquito inside a house in Cali, ColombiaLuis Robayo/ AFP
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Maria Camila Davila, who is pregnant and infected by the Zika virus, waits to be attended at the Erasmo Meoz University Hospital in Cucuta, ColombiaSchneyder Mendoza/ AFP
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A Health Secretary employee fumigates against mosquito Aedes Aegypti mosquito inside a house in Cali, Colombia, where the Zika virus has spread 'explosively'Luis Robayo/ AFP