Zika not altering missionary, BYU study abroad plans

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FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016 file photo, a fumigation brigade sprays an area of Chacabuco Park in a Aedes mosquito control effort, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Zika virus is suspected of causing a rare but potentially devastating birth defect, an abnormally small head, which can indicate underlying brain damage. Concerns are keeping some workers from attending meetings and company retreats in affected locations but business travel experts say it does not yet appear to be having a broad impact.(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
A fumigation brigade sprays an area of Chacabuco Park in a Aedes mosquito control effort, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Zika virus is suspected of causing a rare but potentially devastating birth defect, an abnormally small head, which can indicate underlying brain damage.(Associated Press)

The LDS Church is one among many organizations working to prevent the alarming spread of the Zika virus.

The Zika virus, which is “primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes,” also spreads Chikungunya and dengue, other dangerous diseases according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Missionaries throughout the world are instructed on how to stay healthy, including avoiding mosquito-borne viruses,” church spokesman Erick Hawkins said. Hawkins also explained that the church will be providing specific instructions to mission presidents worldwide.

According to the CDC website, the first confirmed case of Zika originated in Brazil in May 2015. About one in five people infected with the Brazil-based virus will experience symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The CDC states that because of the mild nature of the virus, many people may not even notice that they have been infected with Zika.

Despite growing attention to the virus’ spread, BYU is not taking measures at this time to halt any study abroad programs in South America or in any other parts of the world.

The BYU Kennedy Center’s International Study Programs Director, Lynn Elliot, said, “We take these matters very seriously and we are watching very closely. The Zika virus is not deadly. It is not a high risk disease.”

Elliot continued to explain that the study abroad programs in the affected countries are distributing mosquito repellant and giving instructions on how to exercise caution against the virus.

The greater concern involves pregnant women who get infected with the virus. Recent studies done by the CDC and the World Health Organization have been discovering serious brain defects of the fetus of an infected mother. The baby is then born with an abnormally small head.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health has also noted rising cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome and believes that such may be in correlation to the Zika virus outbreak. Guillain-Barré syndrome can possibly cause muscle paralysis and severe nerve damage.

The CDC has warned against the travel of pregnant women to countries where the virus is imminent. The World Health Organization held a committee on Feb. 1 where it met to discuss the legitimate call for a public emergency concern. Both the WHO and the CDC are recommending travel restrictions of any kind to any country.

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