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Everything You Need to Know About Zika Virus

Posted by Amanda Dexter on Apr 14, 2016 12:00:00 AM


I’m sure you have all heard about the Zika virus and the birth defects that have been associated with this condition, but if you are wondering more about what the virus is, what effects it typically has on infected people, who is at risk, and what you need to do to avoid it, you are not alone!

I am currently packing for a trip to the Dominican Republic next week and felt as though I should do more research into this subject to make sure I am fully prepared for my trip. Below are some of the most important facts about the Zika virus that I’d like to pass along to you so that you have the basic information about this virus in case you plan to travel this summer or in case you happen to see a patient presenting with some of the classic symptoms!

The Zika virus is usually spread by mosquitos

Zika is an RNA virus that is related to West Nile, yellow fever, and dengue viruses, and is passed along by the bite of a particular type of mosquito called the Aedes mosquito. This mosquito is the vector that transmits the infection; it is not generally passed from person to person, but has been shown to be transmitted sexually in a few cases. 

Symptoms of Zika virus are typically mild

Approximately 80% of people infected with the Zika virus never have any symptoms. In those who do show symptoms, the most common complaints are fever and rash, muscle and joint pain, headache, and conjunctivitis (usually red and itchy eyes). Symptoms usually last two to seven days. There is currently no effective treatment available for people infected with this virus, but usually over-the-counter fever or pain medication is all that is needed. 

Unborn babies are the most at risk from Zika virus

It is unclear ar when in the pregnancy complications associated with the Zika virus are highest, but it is known that the unborn child is at risk of developing microcephaly and subsequent mental retardation, as well as delays in speech, movement, and growth. The CDC’s newest guidelines recommend that pregnant women delay travel to areas where Zika is active (currently there are 38 countries or territories, most in the Americas). Additionally, it is recommended that pregnant women coming back from these areas get tested for Zika immediately upon return. 

There is no vaccine available to protect against Zika

Several companies are currently working on vaccines to fight Zika; however, this could be a long process before something becomes widely available to the public. Vaccine development is a slow and deliberate process due to safety concerns. 

ZIka began in Africa and has spread rapidly in more recent years

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in a rhesus macaque in the Zika forest of Uganda. Outbreaks were reported from 1951 to 1981 throughout Africa and Asia. Since the first cases were discovered in Latin America in 2014, the virus has quickly spread. Zika has now reached Puerto Rico’s mosquitos and may keep traveling north. This means that the Gulf Coast is at risk, which includes areas of Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa, due to the fact that mosquitos thrive here because of the weather conditions. 

US travelers are bringing Zika back with them 

This occurs when travelers are infected in other countries and then return back to the US. The first case of this was in 2007. From 2007-2014, 14 US travelers had a positive Zika test. This number is much greater in 2015 and so far in 2016. To date, there are approximately 300 travel-linked cases of Zika in the US. The good news is that it is extremely unlikely that Zika mosquitos would be carried back to the US by people traveling abroad. However, there is the concern that a person infected with the virus could pass it along to local mosquito populations. 

Take preventative steps when traveling outside of the US

If you plan to travel to areas with current Zika outbreaks, there are steps that you should take in order to avoid contracting the virus. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible. Wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible and use a repellent containing picardin, oil of lemon-eucalytpus, at least 20 percent DEET, or IR3535 when venturing outdoors. When you return to the US, you should also take steps to prevent mosquito bites for an additional 3 weeks (even if you don’t feel sick) so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitos. 

-Dr. Dexter

The Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Studying for Part I of NBEO®

NBEO-Tips-large.pngWe’ve put together a ton of great tips and tricks for studying for Part I of NBEO along with two tailored study programs that will help you thoroughly prepare for the big day. Remember, you’ve made it this far and you can totally do this!

Some of the Top 15 Tips include:

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format
  • Tackle the Weak Subjects Early
  • Start Sooner and Ease Into It
  • ...and 12 more!


Topics: Viruses



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