Zika virus is an infection that is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Less commonly, the disease can be transmitted through blood and body fluids.
The Centers for Disease Control, CDC currently classifies the risk of infection of Zika in the United States as extremely rare. Nonetheless, there are some important things you can do to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the disease to your family or in the community.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Most people who have the virus don’t know they have it. Only about 1 out of 5 infected people will have symptoms and they are usually mild — beginning between two to seven days after being infected.
Symptoms of Zika typically include two or more of the following: fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye (conjunctivitis) or headaches. The virus is believed to remain in the body for a long period of time – even after those who have had symptoms appear to have recovered.
Women who are pregnant are at risk of transmitting the virus to their unborn babies, causing serious birth defects and brain damage (congenital microcephaly).
Are there treatments or a vaccination for Zika?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika; and there are no specific treatments for those who have been infected. Medical care focuses on testing, relief of symptoms and efforts to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
Who is at greatest risk for Zika?
Unborn babies are at the greatest risk of complications from the Zika virus. The virus is known to cause serious birth defects and severe brain damage. Pregnant women or those who intend to get pregnant and who live in areas where there is an outbreak, who have traveled to an affected area or who have partners who have traveled to affected areas should take extra precautions to avoid being exposed.
What can I do to avoid getting Zika?
The best way to prevent exposure is to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET. DEET is safe to use, even during pregnancy.
- Clear away areas containing still-water where mosquitoes can breed.
- Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, use door and window screens to keep insects away.
- Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most prevalent (usually at dusk and dawn – However, the breed of mosquito that transmits Zika are also aggressive during the day).
If you have traveled, or plan to travel, to locations with travel advisories as described by the US State Department related to a Zika outbreak:
- Take steps to avoid exposure to mosquitoes (see tips above).
- Pregnant women should avoid travel to these areas.
- Men who live in or travel to these areas should abstain from sexual activity or use condoms.
What should I do if I think I may have the Zika Virus?
If you have traveled to a country with travel advisories related to Zika AND you have at least two or more of the symptoms related to the virus, you should seek medical attention. Depending on the nature of your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend a blood sample to be taken to test for the virus. It takes several days to receive the results of the test and you will be provided with instructions to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.
DID YOU KNOW? The CDC is recommending that more focus be placed on taking steps to prevent West Nile Virus — also transmitted through mosquitoes – which poses a greater risk than Zika in the continental US as of the date of this blog post.
For the latest information related to Zika virus go to Centers for Disease Control (CDC): cdc.gov/zika