Mosquitoes have always been a source of annoyance and big, itchy, red bites. Usually we only need to worry about them in the summer, but the Zika virus outbreak is causing people to sweat throughout the world. So, what exactly is Zika? We’re here to help you learn everything you need to know about Zika virus.
Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The virus has been known to circulate Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Several U.S. territories have reported Zika transmission, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. While cases of Zika have been confirmed in the U.S., those affected were not infected locally and reported traveling to locations where they contracted the virus. Last time, we talked about the transmission, diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of Zika virus infection.
There’s currently no vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection; however, President Obama has asked Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding that could help fast track an attempt to develop a vaccine against Zika. Even with funding, the process required to develop a vaccine could take years. Zika virus infection can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites, keeping in mind that Zika-infected mosquitoes bite mostly during the daytime. If you travel to an area with a known Zika outbreak, you should take the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use windows and screen doors to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito netting.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent.
If you’re traveling with your baby or child in an area with known Zika outbreaks:
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Use mosquito netting over any cribs, strollers and baby carriers.
- You shouldn’t use insect repellents on babies who are two months old or younger.
- You should not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes and mouth or any area of skin that may be cut or irritated.
When applying insect repellent to your child’s face, first spray the repellent onto your hands and then apply to the child’s face, otherwise it could get in their eyes, nose and mouth and cause irritation.
For pregnant women
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises any pregnant woman in any trimester to postpone travel to areas of known Zika outbreaks. If you absolutely must travel to one of these areas, talk with your health care provider or a physician at your local AFC/Urgent Care first, and take strict measures to prevent mosquito bites. All pregnant women who have recently traveled to an area with Zika, even those who are not experiencing symptoms, should talk to a health care provider. The CDC recommends all pregnant women who have traveled to an area with a Zika virus outbreak get tested just to be safe.
There have been cases reported in which pregnant women have transmitted Zika to their unborn children. More studies are being done to determine exactly how this transmission takes place. Because Zika can be transmitted sexually, women who may be trying to get pregnant, as well as their male partners should talk to a health care provider before traveling to areas with Zika. Right now, there’s no evidence to suggest that Zika virus infection affects future pregnancies. While cases of microcephaly have been reported in babies of women infected with Zika, no direct link has been found between the two. The Pan American Health Organization and the CDC are conducting further research on a possible link. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to use EPA-registered insect repellents. When following the instructions found on the label, these insect repellents have been proven safe, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that Zika can be transmitted through breastfeeding.
Should we be concerned about the Zika virus in the United States?
There have been confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S.; however, none of the cases was known to have originated in the U.S., and those affected had recently traveled to areas with known Zika outbreaks and contracted the virus during their travels.
The Aedes mosquito that most commonly transmits Zika can be found in the continental United States. Americans who visit an area with a Zika outbreak could become infected during their trip. Because Zika outbreaks have been so widespread recently, the number of Zika virus infections are likely to increase among those visiting or returning to the United States.
When returning from an area where there has been a Zika outbreak, it is important to watch out for symptoms that could be related to Zika virus infection. During the first week of infection, Zika remains in the blood and can be passed from human to mosquito through a bite, and then the mosquito can continue passing the virus. If you become infected, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites in order to prevent a local spread of the virus.
There you have it — everything you need to know about Zika all in one place. Because so much research is being done on Zika, it’s important that you stay up to date on new information regarding the virus. If you’ve recently traveled to an area with a Zika outbreak and are experiencing any symptoms described, stop by your local AFC/Urgent Care or speak with your health care provider.