Zika Virus Facts

Zika Virus Facts

John D’Angelo, TCS EMS

A good deal of misinformation about the Zika virus has been disseminated recently through both the internet and mass communication outlets.  The result of such disinformation is a combination of confusion and unfounded fears which can only be eliminated by a presentation of the facts.

First, Zika is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.  The symptoms displayed by an infected person would include a fever that is accompanied by a rash and joint pain.  These symptoms, which usually last less than a week, are so mild that many people are unaware that they have been infected.  Also, once infected, a person will be immune from further infections, no matter how many times he or she is bitten by an infected mosquito.

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda, and, since then, outbreaks have primarily been confined to areas in Africa, the South Pacific, and Southeast Asia.  However, in May 2015 Zika cases were confirmed in Brazil.  Since then confirmed Zika cases have been found in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico.  Currently there have been no local, mosquito-borne cases found in the U.S., although there have been several cases of Zika-infected travelers returning to the U.S.

The primary danger of the Zika virus is that it can be transmitted from a  woman to her fetus during pregnancy.  Such transmission can lead to the infant being born with microcephaly, a serious birth defect of the brain.  Although the virus can be transmitted sexually from an infected male to his partner or partners, the greatest danger would be to the woman who is or who may become pregnant through such contact.

Since pregnant women are at greatest risk from exposure to the Zika virus and since a vaccine has yet to be developed, pregnant women must protect themselves.  Of course the best and easiest means of protection is to avoid travel to those areas where the Zika virus is present.  However, if such travel cannot be avoided, the next best thing is to prevent mosquito bites with common sense approaches such as wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, staying inside air-conditioned buildings, and using EPA-approved insect repellants.

Finally, pregnant women who develop Zika-like symptoms should see a health care professional immediately.

We at Tri-Community South EMS recommend that pregnant women who are planning to travel in the near future should check with the CDC website to determine if the Zika virus is present in that area.  If it is, she must take the proper precautions to protect both herself and her unborn child.