Over the past several months, there has been news stories buzzing about the emerging epidemic, Zika virus. Cases of the illness have been widespread throughout countries in Latin America and South America, with a one confirmed case in the U.S. on February 2, 2016.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease, which is spread to people through mosquito bites. The virus is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, which usually bite during the daytime. 1 in 5 people infected with Zika become ill. In most cases, the illness is mild with symptoms lasting from a few days to a week.
What are the symptoms?
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Who is at risk of becoming infected?
Anyone who has not already been infected by Zika virus and is living in or traveling to areas where the virus is found is at risk. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are especially at risk and the CDC recommends special precautions.
The CDC has issued a travel notice for those traveling to regions and countries where Zika transmission is ongoing. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should consider postponing plans to travel to these areas. If you do plan to travel, consult with your healthcare provider first and follow the steps below to avoid mosquito bites.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellants
- Stay in places with air conditioning
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net
- For more information: Mosquito Prevention for Travelers
The CDC is advising pregnant women to postpone travel to areas affected by Zika. Birth defects have been reported in Brazil of babies whose mothers were infected with the virus during pregnancy. Microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is smaller than expected, has been the most reported birth defect. However, if an expecting mother is infected with the virus during pregnancy, the risk is unknown to the infant.
Prevention & Treatment
There is no vaccine available to prevent Zika virus disease. The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid mosquito bites. If you do become infected, treat your symptoms by:
- Plenty of rest
- Drink fluids to stay hydrated
- Take medicines such as acetaminophen to relieve pain and fever
- Aspirin and NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen) should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce risk of bleeding
- Prevent mosquito bites during the first week of infection, due to the virus being found in the blood and can be passed to another mosquito through mosquito bites. Therefore, the infected mosquito can spread the virus to other people.
- It has been reported that the virus can be spread through sexual contact
If you experience any of the possible symptoms described above and have traveled to an area where Zika is found, please schedule an appointment with a provider at Wake Internal Medicine Consultants. Your physician may order blood tests for evaluation.