Now that the Zika virus has been identified in the United States, it is urgent for us to learn the symptoms and prevention methods. The virus is spread primarily from Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquitoes that carry the virus for yellow fever and dengue fever. The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda 70 years ago. The current outbreak started in Brazil in 2015 and has spread throughout the Carribean and South America, while imported cases have been reported in Asia and several European countries. In February of 2016, the World health Organization declared the Zika virus as a global threat. Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave the green light to a field trial that will release genetically modified Zika-killing mosquitos in the Florida Keys area.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), these mosquitoes prefer to bite people and like to lay their eggs near standing water inside buckets/containers, animal dishes and flower pots. Health officials in the U.S. have recently identified individuals who have contracted the virus either via mosquito bites or from traveling to Zika-infested localities.
The most common symptoms for Zika virus are rash, fever, joint pain, red eyes and headaches. The virus is also transmitted through sexual intercourse and there is a possibility it may spread from blood transfusions. But it is not airborne. The population most at risk for contracting the virus are pregnant women. Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their fetus, which may result in severe brain damage for the unborn child.
If you are trying to become pregnant, please consult your physician if you wish to travel to any of the infected localities. Also, please adhere to the relevant guidelines to avoid mosquito bites. A Zika infection during pregnancy “is a cause of microcephaly and other severe birth defects,” as stated by the CDC. Microcephaly occurs when a baby’s head is smaller than usual and the brain has not developed accordingly. Such a condition can produce seizures, hearing and vision loss, cognitive and developmental delays and problems with general mobility.
The most effective prevention method is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. While outdoors, use EPA registered insect repellent. If using sunscreen, remember to apply sunblock first, followed by repellent. You may also protect yourself by wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts.
If you have travel plans, check travel notices regarding Zika, prior to your departure. Do not engage in unprotected sex. If you are pregnant, do not travel to Zika-infected localities.
Make sure all of the windows inside your home and work place have secure screens to prevent mosquitoes from coming inside.
Rarely does the virus result in death. Usually, those who are infected do not get sick enough to visit a hospital and the symptoms disappear after several days. Once an individual contracts the virus, he/she becomes immune to future infections.
For the latest updates, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika.