What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a viral infection that can cause fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Zika is spread primarily through mosquito bites. You can also get Zika virus from sexual contact with someone who is infected, even if they have no symptoms. Zika can also be spread from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby and by donated blood or organs.
Zika is the most dangerous for pregnant women as it can cause serious problems for your baby. If you are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the Zika virus is not likely to cause permanent problems or even make you very ill.
Where is Zika found?
Most cases of Zika have been found in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. The virus has also been found in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. As of July 5th, 2016, 53 cases have been reported in the state of Texas. (Texas Department of State Health Services)
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Most people that become infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. These symptoms usually surface 2 to 14 days after becoming infected.
Symptoms might include:
- Pain in joints, especially in the hands and feet
- Red eye
In some areas with outbreaks of the Zika virus, there has also been found to be an increase in a disease called “Guillain-Barre Syndrome”. This is a condition that can cause severe muscle weakness and can sometimes even lead to paralysis.
What if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, experts recommend that you do not travel to areas where Zika virus is present. If you do visit these countries, it is especially important to avoid mosquito bites. It is also important to avoid having unprotected sex with anyone who is or could be infected with the Zika virus.
Zika can cause serious complications during pregnancy including miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. Babies that are born infected can have a head and brain that are much smaller than normal--a condition called “microcephaly”. Babies with microcephaly are at risk for many different issues including seizures, trouble hearing or seeing normally, learning problems and other problems with their growth and development.
If you are pregnant and have recently traveled to one of these affected countries, tell your doctor or nurse. Your doctor may want to test you for the virus. There are also tests that can be done to see if your unborn baby is infected.
Is there a test for Zika?
Yes. If you doctor or nurse thinks that you may have Zika, there are tests that can be performed. They may also test for other diseases with similar symptoms.
How is Zika treated?
There is no specific treatment for the Zika virus other than rest and fluids. You can also take Tylenol (acetaminophen) for fever or body aches. Aspirin and NSAIDS should always be avoided with symptoms of Zika virus and especially in children under the age of 18.
Can Zika be prevented?
Yes. The best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to avoid mosquitos that carry it. If you live or are traveling to a country with an active outbreak of the Zika virus, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Stay inside during times when mosquitos are most active, this is usually very early in the morning or in the few hours right before sunset.
- Wear shoes, long sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat when outside.
- Wear a bug spray or cream that contains DEET or a chemical called picardin. Check the label to make sure. Do not use DEET containing products on babies younger than 2 months of age.
- On your clothes and gear, use products that contain a chemical called permethrin.
- Drain any standing water if possible, such as wading pools, buckets and potted plants with saucers. Mosquitos breed in standing water.
There is no vaccine for Zika infection.
LaBeaud, D. (2016). Zika virus infection: An overview. Retrieved from www.uptodate.com