Zika Virus: Information You Need Now

Zika Virus has been in the Top Stories this month.

Zika VirusWith it being International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, we thought the Zika Virus also made for a very important topic of discussion on our blog.

Dr. Turlington and the rest of the staff at Southeast Women’s Center want to make certain our patients have all their questions answered on this devastating virus. If the following doesn’t answer all of the questions you have, please do not hesitate to contact us to get your questions answered. We are here for you!

What is Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is a transmitted disease. The most common way it is transmitted is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people fully recover from Zika virus without severe complications and severe illness or death are extremely rare. However, Zika virus can be dangerous for babies still in the womb. Investigations are still being made to determine the link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder where the immune system attacks the nervous system.

Why Should Pregnant Women Be On Alert?

When a pregnant woman becomes infected with Zika virus, the virus can also infect the unborn baby. Health experts believe there is a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, a neurological condition in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing. Microcephaly can be associated with severe developmental issues, and, in rare instances, death. The risk is highest to the unborn child when the mother is infected during the first trimester.

The possible link between Zika virus and microcephaly was first discovered in Brazil, when the number of cases of Zika and babies with microcephaly spiked around the same time. Zika infections in Brazil had been previously rare and a total of only about 150 cases of microcephaly were reported annually up until the outbreak in late 2015. Since the outbreak, an estimated 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected with Zika virus and more than 4,200 cases of microcephaly were reported between October 2015-January 2016.

Research has not only found Zika in the brain of babies with microcephaly whose mothers contracted Zika during pregancy, but in the saliva, blood, and urine of mothers who were born with microcephaly as well. In a small study, Zika antibodies were found in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women, suggesting Zika is able to cross the placenta. These women tested negative for the virus in their blood and urine, but their babies were born with microcephaly; however, researchers stress this doesn’t confirm the link between the virus and microcephaly.

The connection is still being tested an more research is needed to better understand the link between the two.

What are Warning Signs and Symptoms of Zika Virus?

Common symptoms include fever, rash, headaches, muscle and joint pain, red eyes, and pain behind the eyes. However, only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus actually exhibit symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and don’t appear right away. This is why people who have traveled to Zika-infected areas need to be extra pre-cautious, as they may not become sick until after they return home.

What Areas Have Zika Virus Infected?

ALthough Zika virus was first identified in Africa in 1947, very few cases were documented and therefore it was considered a rare disease until 2007, when there was an outbreak in Micronesia. In May 2015, the virus began to rapidly spread in Brazil and throughout South America. According to the World Health Organizaion, as many as 4+ million people could be infected in Americas within the next year.

As of February 9, 2016, travel warnings have been issued by the CDC after finding active transmission cases to the following countries and territories:

  • American Samoa
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Bonaire
  • Brazil
  • Cape Verde
  • Colombia
  • Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. territory
  • Costa Rica
  • Curacao
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Saint Martin
  • Samoa
  • Suriname
  • Tonga
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela

The CDC advises that American women who are expecting, as well as those hoping to become pregnant, shouldn’t travel to these countries because of the prevalence of Zika virus.

Has Zika Virus Entered the United States?

Although cases of ZIka have been reported in the continental United States, these are limited to people who recently traveled to infected countries. However, there has been confirmed cases in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Health experts are concerned that if an infected person is bitten by a mosquito here, that mosquito — which is now carrying the virus — could infect someone else. It is anticipated that Zika virus will spread to all but two countries in the Americas — Canada and Chili — because Aedes mosquitos, who transmit the virus via their bites, are not found in either of the two.

For a continuously updated list on Zika virus reports in the United States, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html.

Why is Zika Virus Spreading So Quickly?

There are two reasons Zika virus is spreading at such an alarming rate. First, Aedes mosquitoes (the main transmitter of the virus, as mentioned above) are present in all the regions countries (with the exception of Canada and Chili). Second, most people in the Americas have a lack of immunity to the virus because they have not been previously exposed. Without immunity, a new virus has the ability to spread quickly.

What if My Partner Has Traveled To a Zika-Affected Area Recently?

According to experts, it is possible for Zika Virus to be sexually transmitted. Currently, researchers are unsure how long the virus can stay in a man’s semen, so the CDC recommends talk to your doctor before having sex, and use a condom for the duration of your pregnancy.

What Tests and Tretments are Available?

If you think you have been exposed to Zika virus, please see your doctor, regardless if you are currently experiencing symptoms or not. Your doctor can administer a blood test to detect Zika virus. With the rising concern of the virus, tests are readily available and their results are ready fast.

Is There Currently a Vaccine for Zika Virus?

There is currently no vaccine for Zika virus, although efforts are currently being made. However, due to time and money contraints, experts don’t expect a readily available vaccine in the immediate future.

How can Zika Virus Be Prevented During Pregnancy?

Since there is currently no vaccine available, the best approach is prevention. If possible, try to avoid traveling to countries and regions that are currently affected with the virus.

If you must travel to affected countries, be smart. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks (permethrin-treated, if possible). Stay inside between sunrise and sunset, which are peak mosquito hours. Use a/c inside rather than keeping windows open, especially if windows have no screens. Use mosquito repellent according to the label’s directions on all exposed skin.

Full Site Mobile Site