THE ZIKA VIRUS: PANIC??
The Zika virus is causing a little bit of panic among my pregnant friends and I'm starting to get some questions...so I did a little research.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus disease is a disease caused by the Zika virus which is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes bites ( the Aedes species of mosquitos if you're interested). The disease was named back in 1947 after the Zika forest in Uganda.
The Zika virus is thought to cause microcephaly (small heads and often brain damage in infants). The link between the two was put together last October after an outbreak in Brazil in May 2015. Other factors may contribute to this, but right now circumstantial evidence is pointing to Zika (although a lot of research is still underway).
What are the symptoms?
Fever, joint pain, rash, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) are the most common symptoms. One in five people infected with the virus are symptomatic. The virus is relatively mild and there is currently no treatment or vaccine available.
Is Zika sexually transmitted?
The majority of cases are spread through mosquitoes, however, as of February 2016, there have been 3 reported cases spread by sexual transmission. There are still a lot of unknowns, but the recommendation is to use extra protection or abstain from sex if you or your partner have traveled to any of the Zika infected countries.
I am pregnant, should I be worried?
My friend recently asked her OB this question, and he put her mind at ease a little bit. Of course, he recommended not visiting affected countries and not taking long walks through swamps or forests, but overall he said not to let the fear consume you. Pregnant woman already have a lot to worry about! Do make sure you are using mosquito repellent!
The CDC recommends that If you've traveled to a Zika country recently, within 2-12 weeks (and maybe didn't even know you were pregnant at the time), you should see your health provider even if you haven't experienced symptoms. The CDC has also put out an algorithm for pregnant women: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/pdfs/mm6502e1er.pdf
The CDC's website (cdc.gov) has many resources and uptodate information. The New York Times also recently put together a great article (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/health/what-is-zika-virus.html?_r=0) as well as pharmacist.con.
And if you are a health practitioner, you should have even more online resources and literature available to you through your workplace.