What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

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The Zika virus is a topic that has been exploding in the news lately due to an increased number of outbreaks. The mosquito-borne virus can cause a variety of issues, particularly in pregnant women. So what exactly is the Zika virus and how do you prevent it? Here is some information to help you understand.

What Is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is transmitted from mosquitos to people. Mosquitos can transfer the virus once they’ve bitten an infected person. The virus itself doesn’t typically pass from mother to child, although there is a slight possibility. A recently born baby in Hawaii was infected with the virus, likely passed on from his mother. The virus causes fever, joint pain, rash, conjunctivitis and redness. Symptoms typically last several days to a week. Hospitalization due to the disease does not typically occur.

Areas of Zika Virus Outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency and announced that there is an outbreak of the Zika virus in 20 countries in Latin America including Costa Rica, Jamaica and Brazil. Officials also announced cases of the virus in Tennessee, Ohio and Delaware. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a travel warning to many of the countries where there is a Zika virus outbreak. Specifically, pregnant women and children should not travel to these areas. The goal of the travel warning is to reduce the outbreak of the virus.

Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

The Zika virus is diagnosed based on health history and symptoms. The virus is confirmed through a laboratory test, but recent travel history may also be a clue in knowing whether or not someone has contracted the virus. Because the symptoms of the Zika virus are relatively mild, there are no specific treatments that are recommended. Rest, drinking plenty of water and taking pain medication are the best regimens.

Prevention is probably the best method to stopping the Zika virus. Being near sites where mosquitos are breeding is the primary risk factor. Using insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your entire body and closing doors and windows can help reduce your exposure to mosquitos. Helping vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children, protect themselves is an important step in preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

Pregnant Women and the Zika Virus

Health officials have particular concerns about the Zika virus and pregnant women and children. The Zika virus is related to certain birth defects and the CDC suspects Zika virus is linked to the increasing rate of microcephaly  in babies born in Latin America. Researchers indicate that babies born with the virus have experienced some ocular defects such as atrophied retinas, abnormal iris pigmentation and lenses that are out of place. These vision issues can threaten the ocular health of infants exposed to the disease. Although there is no definitive link between the Zika virus and ocular issues in infants, the CDC is monitoring pregnant women exposed to the virus.

The Zika virus has seen a major outbreak in the past several months. Taking steps to prevent the virus is important to containing this outbreak. Pregnant women, children and the elderly should take specific precautions to avoid mosquitos and travelling to areas affected by the virus. This will help diminish the proliferation of the Zika virus.

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