There has been a lot of information about the Zika virus in the news and on social media in recent months. It has caused fear around the world. Do you need to be worried? Here are the basics about the Zika virus.
Zika is a virus spread mainly through mosquito bites. The mosquito that carries the Zika
virus is found in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. It has also been found in the United States territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as of May 18, 2016, there have not been any cases acquired in the United States. There have been 544 laboratory confirmed travel-associated cases. Of the 544 cases, 48 were pregnant women, 10 were sexually transmitted. Cases have been found in 44 of the 50 states. The only states that have not reported any cases are; Alaska, Idaho, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Zika virus disease is typically mild. The most common symptoms; fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes last a few days to a week. Once a person is infected, they are likely protected from future infections. Infections with the Zika virus during pregnancy can pose a serious risk to unborn babies. Microcephaly is a birth defect that results in a smaller than normal head. An infant’s head grows as the brain grows; infants with microcephaly have underdeveloped brains. Underdeveloped brains can cause seizures, delays in growth and development, intellectual disabilities, feeding problems, hearing loss and vision problems.
Zika can also be spread through sexual contact with a man infected with the Zika virus. The virus stays longer in semen than in blood, correct use of a condom reduces the chance of passing the virus to a sexual partner. It is unknown whether an infected woman can pass the virus to her sexual partners.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus disease. Zika is avoided by preventing mosquito bites. Anyone that travels to or lives in an area where Zika is prevalent should educate themselves in the steps to prevent mosquito bites.
- Wear long –sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens or sleep under a mosquito net.
- Use EPA registered insect repellents (DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol) as directed.
- Do not apply insect repellent under clothing.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies less than 6 months.
- Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellant.
- Treat clothing with permethrin.
- Visit the CDC Zika Travel Information page for more information.
What you hear on the news, from friends or on social media may not be accurate. If you want additional information about the Zika virus go to the CDC website.
Written by Claire Keller, nursing instructor Minnesota School of Business – Richfield.