Zika Virus? What is it?

 Last year, the Ebola virus was the disease .   This year, the Zika virus is the disease threatening to cause a widespread epidemic.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes. For most adult patients, Zika symptoms seem to be less severe than fever symptoms, but some doctors fear that the virus may hurt unborn babies, by causing problems — such as “microcephaly,” or an unusually small head — that could kill a baby or leave a baby with severe developmental issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently put out a travel alert aimed at pregnant women planning to travel to the Central American, Caribbean and some South American countries already affected by the virus. It does appear that the CDC is most concerned with Pregnant Women traveling in areas that the virus may be present.

There does not seem to be any need for widespread panic and unless you are traveling to an area that has diagnosed instances of the Zika Virus, you should not have much cause for concern.

 What we know :

  • It’s believed that the virus originated in either tropical Africa or Asia.
  • The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives mostly in tropical areas, and the Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) mosquito, which lives in many areas in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Both mosquitoes look eerily similar, with tiny white stripes on their legs, bodies and wings (see picture above).
  • The CDC estimates that, once people are bitten by an infected mosquito, about 1 in 5 will become ill.
  • The CDC still isn’t sure how long the incubation period is, but it estimates the incubation period to be within a few days to a week, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. (Check out the symptom checklist on the second page, here.)
  • There have been two unconfirmed cases of the Zika virus possibly spreading through sexual contact.
  • A blood test can determine if a patient is infected with Zika, and rule out the possibility that the patient might be infected with other viruses.
  • Mosquitoes that bite patients with the Zika virus can spread the virus to other people.
  • The CDC recommends that patients who have Zika get rest, plenty of fluids, and take acetaminophen for the fever or pain. The CDC recommends that patients avoid taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen until dengue fever can be ruled out, to reduce the risk of hemorrhage.
  • Both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are expecting the virus to spread to all countries in the Americas but Canada and continental Chile.
  • The official CDC travel health notice applies to travel by pregnant women to the following countries:

    -Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico and Saint Martin
    -Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama
    -South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela

 Do YOU have Zika?

1. Have you traveled recently to a Zika infected country?

2. Have you been bitten by a mosquito while in that infected country?

3. Have you had any of the symptoms described in the list below?

4. Did you visit your doctor and did they test you for Zika?

If you answered yes to those questions: Do not panic.

Avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes again (see the infographic below) and follow your primary physician’s orders.

The most common Zika symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint pain
  • And/or conjunctivitis (red eyes)

Other common symptoms: