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A Zika primer: What you need to know about the virus spreading in Latin America

by AirTalk®

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Paolo Zanotto, researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Sao Paulo, speaks during a press conference. Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal are in Brazil to train local researchers to combat the Zika virus epidemic. NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

The suspected number of cases of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in babies, continues to rise in Brazil, reaching 3,893 since authorities began investigating the surge in October, Health Ministry officials said Wednesday.    

Fewer than 150 cases of microcephaly were seen in the country in all of 2014. Brazil's health officials say they're convinced the jump is linked to a sudden outbreak of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue, though the mechanics of how the virus might affect babies remain murky.    

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to Brazil and several other countries in the Americas where Zika outbreaks have occurred. The warning comes months ahead of the Aug. 5-21 Olympic Games, which Rio de Janeiro is hosting, and some tourism professionals have voiced concern that it could scare visitors away.

Two days ago, health officials say a baby born in a Hawaii hospital is the first in the U.S. with a birth defect linked to the Zika virus, and a traveler in the Houston area has been identified with the virus.

How worried should Americans be?

With AP files

Guests:

Camilla Costa, reporter for BBC Brazil who’s been covering the story. She tweets from @_camillacosta

Dr. Amesh Adalja, MD,  a Senior Associate at the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he specializes in studying and preventing the epidemics and infectious diseases. He tweets from @AmeshAA

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