Friday, July 12, 2024

What You Should Know About Zika Virus

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Submitted by Projects Abroad Volunteer, Cassandra Janetzki-flatt

This 2006 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host. On Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, U.S. health officials are telling pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin America and Caribbean countries with outbreaks of a tropical illness linked to birth defects. The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites from Aedes aegypti and causes only a mild illness in most people. But there’s been mounting evidence linking the virus to a surge of a rare birth defect in Brazil. (James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

What is Zika Virus?
Zika virus is spread by mosquitos, and can cause an infection known as Zika fever. Zika virus was first found in Asia and Africa. Since 2014, the virus has been spreading, and cases have now been found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and both Central and South America. So far there have been no cases in Belize.
What are the symptoms?
Zika fever symptoms are similar to the common cold. Symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and joint pain. Symptoms are mild and may last up to one week. 1 in 5 people infected with the virus actually become ill. Even though you may not have symptoms, you may still have the virus. Zika very rarely causes hospitalization. Death is extremely rare. Currently, there are no vaccines or specific treatments available for Zika.
How is it spread?
The Zika virus is spread through being bitten by an infected mosquito. The mosquitos become infected by feeding on a person who already has the virus in their bloodstream. Zika is spread by the same mosquitos that carry dengue and chikungunya viruses. Mosquitos are more active during the day, but can also bite at night. Zika cannot be spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. There have been a small number of cases where Zika has been spread through sex. If infected with Zika, it is recommended to avoid sex or use condoms.
Pregnancy and Zika
It is possible that Zika may be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth. Zika infection may cause microcephaly in babies. Microcephaly is when the head is smaller than normal. This effects brain growth. Depending on how small the brain is, babies may have seizures, mental delays, hearing or vision problems, or movement problems. It is recommended that women in areas with Zika virus wait to become pregnant. Pregnant women should avoid travelling to these areas. The Zika virus only stays in your blood for one week after infection. After having Zika, there is no proof that future pregnancies are at risk.
Prevention
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid contact with mosquitos. Ways to do that include wearing long sleeves and pants, wearing light clothing, using insect repellant sprays, closing screen doors, and sleeping under a mosquito net. If you do get Zika, try to avoid mosquito bites during the first week after infection to stop the spread to other people.
Mosquitos breed in fresh water. Avoid keeping open water sources to help control mosquito populations. It is good idea to empty or cover pots and buckets that may collect water when it rains.
If you experience any symptoms, you should go see your local doctor.

*Information for this article was obtained from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization websites. The writer of this article is not a licensed health care provider. Readers should use their discretion and speak to their doctor if concerned over any information provided in this article.

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