by Dr. Asma Khan, HRHCare Urgent Care
Last summer, Zika dominated the news when infections were reported in Florida and Texas. Before that, this mosquito-borne virus was virtually unknown in the United States. As warmer weather is just around the corner and summer travel plans are being made, let’s go over what you really need to know about Zika this season.
What is Zika?
First identified in the East African nation of Uganda in 1947, Zika is a flavivirus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, the same kind of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and the chikunguya virus. A mosquito will bite an infected person and then carry the virus, subsequently infecting everyone else it bites. The most common, but not exclusive, way a person who has been infected spreads Zika is through sex, as both men and women can pass the virus to their partners. Studies have shown that it can be passed through blood, semen, urine, saliva, and eye fluid.
The biggest concern around Zika is for pregnant women, as they can pass the virus on to their fetus. Zika can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other brain defects. However, if a woman who has recovered from the infection gets pregnant later, there is no evidence to show that her baby will be at an increased risk of having birth defects.
What are the Symptoms?
Zika symptoms are usually mild and last for several days to a week. The most common symptoms include:
- RashJoint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain
It is unusual to become sick enough to go to the hospital, and it is extremely rare to die of Zika. Only one in five people with Zika exhibit symptoms, and many show none at all.
How Do I Prevent It?
- Avoid traveling to areas with a high risk for Zika. Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s map to see where in the world is currently at high risk.
- Protect yourself and your family members from getting mosquito bites by using EPA-registered insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and using a mosquito net if you are sleeping with the windows open or outside.
- Use condoms to reduce the chance of getting Zika through sex.
Zika: What You Need to Know
Avoid traveling to areas with a high-risk for Zika infection. Women who are pregnant women should stay away from these areas if at all possible. If you are pregnant and absolutely need to travel to a high-risk area, talk with your health care provider first and take every precaution to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. All pregnant women who have traveled to an area of active Zika infection should have a fetal ultrasound.
If you think you might be infected, talk with your provider about your recent travel and ask for a blood or urine test for Zika and similar viruses.
Asma Khan, MD, is the Clinical Director at HRHCare Urgent Care, 84 N Highland Ave between High Street and Sickles Ave in Nyack. Along with offices in Haverstraw and Spring Valley, the facility is part of the 28 health center HRHCare network in the Hudson Valley and Long Island providing comprehensive primary care.
- Earth Matters: Zika – A Tale of 2 Mosquitos, 8/27/2016
- Analysis: NY Congresswoman Nita Lowey and the Zika Virus, 8/8/2016