Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has garnered international attention due to a potential link to the dramatic rise of microcephaly in South and Central American countries. Microcephaly is a birth defect that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads which can lead to severe developmental issues and even death. While researchers are still trying to create a vaccine, the response to the Zika outbreak within the U.S. has been swift, which National Health Institute officials say makes us “better prepared” to deal with the virus.
As the Zika virus outbreak continues, new cases in Florida and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have prompted them to announce a state of emergency. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), locally transmitted cases have been found in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Currently, no mosquito transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers in the following states: Florida, Texas, California, and Illinois. It's important to keep in mind that the threat is virtually nonexistent to those in the U.S. that are not traveling to the countries where the Zika virus is endemic.
Below are some important things to know about the virus and how it can be prevented from the CDC website:
What are common symptoms of the virus?
1 in 5 people infected with Zika will have symptoms. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache. Symptoms commonly occur 2 to 7 days after being infected.
How is the virus treated?
While there is no vaccine or medication to treat the virus, the CDC recommends that individuals who are infected get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, take a pain and fever reducer (acetaminophen is recommended). The virus usually remains in the blood stream for anywhere from a few days to a week.
How can the risk contracting of Zika be prevented?
Wear clothing that covers your body and wear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. When traveling, it is very important to prevent mosquito bites by sleeping in a well-screened room or using a mosquito bed net.
Are there any other things to know about the virus?
While Zika is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes, the virus can also be spread during pregnancy from mother to baby. There are reports linking this virus to a risk of babies being born with microcephaly – a serious birth defect where babies heads are much smaller than expected due to a problem with development during pregnancy. Due to this, the CDC recommends that women who are pregnant avoid traveling to these areas and be sure to take preventative measures against mosquito bites if they are in an infected area.
See your healthcare provider right away if you develop symptoms. If you have traveled recently, be sure to tell your healthcare provider.
For more information on Zika virus, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/