With the World Health Organization (WHO) warning the Zika virus could explode and infect as many as four million people in Central and South America this year, renowned Internal Medicine doctor Jorge Rodriguez, M.D., said it's not time to "freak out" quite yet.
"Not at this time, but you definitely need to be vigilant," Rodriguez told TheBlaze on Saturday.
The recent explosion of infections in countries to the south of the United State triggered Rodriguez's suggestion of vigilance.
"For me, any viral disease that starts growing very quickly is very dangerous," Rodriguez said.
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Originally found in Uganda in 1947, the mosquito-borne Zika virus had previously been viewed as "something that was pretty benign," said Rodriguez.
"Only about 50 percent of the people infected with Zika got any symptoms whatsoever...and if they did get it, it would maybe be a mild flu-type symptom," he added.
What has brought Zika into the global spotlight is the alarming increase in infections in South America and the reported association with 4,000 cases of microcephaly, a condition causing babies to be born with tiny heads and smaller brains. According to Rodriguez, Zika is devastating to babies, with almost a 100 percent mortality rate.
Despite a report from the CDC saying the virus is not likely to sweep across the country, concern is justified. The mosquitos capable of carrying and spreading Zika can be found in Florida, Texas and other southern states.
Rodriguez was not optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine to stop the virus happening any time soon as "vaccines don't happen overnight."
With no vaccine on the horizon and the virus advancing, what does Rodriguez suggest people do to protect themselves?
"Right now, if you are a woman of child-bearing age, especially if you are pregnant, you shouldn't go to any of the places where this virus is endemic...meaning, primarily South and Central America," Rodriguez told TheBlaze.
If you do find yourself in one of the places were Zika is thriving, Rodriguez suggests some obvious, common sense precautions such as mosquito repellant. He also encourages travelers to talk to their own personal physician.
Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Jorge.
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