Zika is a virus that can be transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Zika outbreaks are currently happening in many countries, including parts of the Unites States. In this article we will review basic points of Zika infection including its symptoms, the way that it spreads, the potential implications in pregnancy, and what we can do to prevent the spread of Zika virus. It is very important to remember that the Zika virus is very similar to the flu; therefore most people with a healthy immune system will be sick for a few days and recover well. However, Zika virus can have devastating effects on a developing baby while growing inside a pregnant woman. All pregnant women should be taking any and all precautions to protect their unborn baby against Zika virus as directed by their physician.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Many people infected with Zika have no symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. If there are symptoms, they usually happen 2-14 days after being infected. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and headache, or red eyes. Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
How does Zika spread?
Zika is spread mainly through mosquito bites. You can also get it by having sex with somebody who is infected. Spread is also possible in other ways, including from pregnant mother to her unborn baby, and through blood transfusions or donated organs.
Why is Zika dangerous in pregnancy?
Zika can cause serious problems in pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects. Babies who are born with the infection have microcephaly (head and brain smaller than normal). Babies with microcephaly are at a higher risk of many different medical problems, including seizures, trouble hearing and seeing normally, learning problems, and other problems with their growth and development.
How is Zika treated?
There is no specific medicine to treat Zika. If your symptoms bother you, you should;
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce fever and pains.
- Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) unless directed by your physician.
How can Zika by prevented?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid mosquito bites. Here is how:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts.
- Take steps to control mosquitos inside and outside the home.
- Avoid standing water: Do not let your children play near standing water, as that is where mosquitos like to play!
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents that contain DEET or picaridin and follow the product label instructions. It is also recommended to spray clothing, especially socks and sneakers, if your child will be playing in the grass.
- You may also protect your clothing and gear with permethrin.
- Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Mosquito netting can safely be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs.
- Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.
Is there a test for Zika?
- There is a test for Zika, but it can only be done through a county health department.
- Certain criteria must be met in order to perform Zika testing:
- Travel to or live in an area with ongoing transmission of Zika virus within the past 2 weeks
- If an adolescent has been exposed to Zika virus through sexual contact
- Must have 2 or more of the following symptoms: fever, rash, red eyes or joint pain
***PLEASE REACH OUT TO YOUR DOCTOR FOR ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS REGARDING THE ZIKA VIRUS.