The Zika virus outbreak has been all over the news. Zika is a virus that is spread by the bite of a certain type of mosquito. Zika virus infection does not usually affect the digestive system, but there has been evidence linking Zika virus to negative effects on pregnancies. Zika can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby. Zika infection during pregnancy may be linked to a birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly means a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with other babies of the same sex and age. Microcephaly can cause developmental, neurologic, and feeding problems. The understanding of the link between Zika and pregnancy is still evolving.
Most people who get infected with Zika virus will show no or mild symptoms. Symptoms usually last about one week. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. It would be very rare for someone infected with Zika virus to become seriously ill or die.
There are currently no vaccines or treatment for Zika infections. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself against Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use insect repellant as directed. Insect repellant is not recommended for babies under two months of age, so dress your baby in clothing that covers their arms and legs and also cover the crib, stroller, or baby carrier with mosquito netting.
Until last month, Zika virus was not found in the continental United States, but the Zika virus was brought in the United States through returning travelers from tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As travel increases over the summer, it is expect that there will be more cases of Zika virus brought in by travelers returning to the United States.
Last month, the Center for Disease Control confirmed the first known case of the Zika virus being locally acquired in the continental United States. The case occurred in Dallas, Texas, and involved a patient who had sexual intercourse with someone who had recently returned from Venezuela infected with the Zika virus. Another way to protect yourself from Zika virus is to abstain from sexual intercourse or to use proper protection.
If you have recently traveled to an area with Zika virus and develop a fever, rash, joint pains, or red eyes, then please contact your doctor so appropriate blood tests can be ordered.