Forty-one service members have contracted the Zika virus since the U.S. military started tracking the number of infections earlier this year. The Pentagon reports that one of the infected services members is a pregnant female. Service members are not the only individuals at risk, the Pentagon has reported that seven people residing with their active duty family members in foreign countries have also been infected. The government has started testing all service members stationed outside the U.S. and in high-risk areas for the disease. In an effort to curb the spread of the disease, female service members have also been approved to move out of countries where the disease is prevalent.
All of the infected service members, which include active duty, National Guard and reserve personnel, contracted the disease outside the United States. According to the CDC the disease has been linked to birth defects in children and can be passed from mother to unborn child. There is currently no vaccine or medicine for the disease. According to studies done by the CDC in conjunction with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health women infected with the virus have a 13% chance of their child being born with severe brain abnormalities.
Despite efforts to stop the transmission of the disease it continues to spread. In just the past week 8 service members where diagnosed with the disease. The number of confirmed cases have more than doubled in the past month and shows no sign of slowing. Several of the infected service members have returned to the United States and have freedom to travel. There is no quarantine for people that were infected. This increases the risk of the disease spreading as it can be passed through sexual contact, through blood transfusion, from mother to child, or by being bitten by a mosquito infected by the virus.
The military has tested several mosquitos found on military bases for traces of the virus; none have tested positive for the Zika virus. However, the Navy did obtain a positive reading for West Nile virus at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus in Bethesda, MD. The military will continue to monitor service members and military bases for the virus. In the meantime the Army is collaborating with outside partners to develop a Zika virus vaccine, according to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.