Are You Afraid of Zika?

Since I live in Florida, where there's active Zika Virus transmission, I've tried to pay attention to the news on this disease. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of Zika, but being a cautious Virgo, I want to know what I'm up against. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a special Zika Virus section on their website.

Yes, the active transmission area, in Miami-Dade County, is 6 hours south of my home. But somehow the virus ended up there--so how can I be certain the mosquitoes that carry it won't migrate this way?

How dangerous is Zika?

The news makes it sound like Zika is no big deal unless your pregnant or wanting to become pregnant. For pregnant women, Zika's effects are tragic, resulting in microcephaly and other severe brain defects.

With microcephaly, a baby's head is much smaller than normal because the brain stopped growing before or after birth. These children may endure a lifetime of problems including seizures, developmental delay, vision/hearing problems and more. The CDC has issued travel notices advising pregnant women not to travel to any areas with Zika.

For others, Zika symptoms are described as "mild," and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes)--and possibly headaches and muscle pain. However, recent CDC research shows that Zika is also "strongly associated" with Gullian-Barre Syndrome (GBS). GBS symptoms include weakness of the arms and legs, and sometimes the muscles that control breathing. According to the CDC, only a small proportion of people with Zika get GBS.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

How do you get Zika?

You can contract Zika through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. They are aggressive daytime and night time biters.

A pregnant woman can transmit Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. (Per the CDC, there have been no instances to date of transmission through breast feeding).

Zika can be transmitted through sex, even if the infected person does not have symptoms.

Zika can be transmitted through blood transfusions.

A few cases of Zika from laboratory transmission have been reported, though exact route of transmission was unclear.

How do you protect yourself from Zika?

First of all, try to avoid mosquito bites:

Try to reduce the mosquito population on your property by eliminating standing water or replace frequently in birdbaths, containers, planters and low areas.

Practice safe sex. CDC has a special page on Zika Virus and sexual transmission.

Avoid travel to areas of active Zika transmission if possible.

Zika information is an ongoing activity for the CDC, so check out the "What's New?" page on their site.

Additional information

Zika in Florida from Florida Department of Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also monitoring Zika Virus.

Zika rumor control from WHO

Zika information from WebMD.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases info on Zika

Clinical Trials on Zika

Zika info on Medline Plus

In a future blog, I'll check out information on the chemicals being used to control the spread of Zika.


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