The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a Global Health Emergency. This information is provided by the University Health Center to ensure that our community is knowledgeable about the virus, including the risks and effects it presents for those who may be visiting areas where the carrier mosquito is present.
What Is The Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. At this time this species of mosquito is not known to be present in the United States but highly prevalent in most countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America including Mexico. A full list can be found at: cdc.gov/zika/geo/.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued travel advisories for these areas to take special precautions to prevent mosquito bites. The advisories can be found at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
Transmission Of The Virus
While the most common form a transmission is through the bite of an infected mosquito, the Zika virus also can be transmitted from a pregnant mother who is infected with the virus to her baby during pregnancy. There have been reports of serious birth defects of the brain and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.
Most recently there is concern that the virus was transmitted during sexual contact with an individual who was a returning traveler to the United States infected with the virus.
What Are The Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Guillain-Barre syndrome has been reported in patients; however, severe disease is uncommon and only one in five people, who become infected, will experience symptoms.
Primary prevention of the Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites (if traveling to any of the listed countries) through the use of insect repellent or avoid travel to these areas, especially if pregnant. This also will prevent infection from other known mosquito-borne viruses.
Individuals that have traveled to affected areas and become ill with a fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis should contact their health care professional or the University Health Center for advisement. Treatment includes rest, fluids and acetaminophen for fever and joint pain. A vaccine or preventive medication is not yet available.
Dr. Donna M. Barry, A.P.N.
Director, University Health Center