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In all the areas of public media today, we hear of the Zika Virus and the threat that it has made in the world of today but especially for women who are pregnant. What exactly is this Zika Virus and why is there such concern worldwide?
Introducing the Zika Virus
Zika is a virus spread from the bite of an infected mosquito, precisely the Aedes species, primarily the same ones that spread dengue. This particular species of mosquito is considered an aggressive biter, especially in the daylight hours so precautions must be made. Once the virus has been transmitted, your chances of developing the actual Zika disease is significantly increased, but not a certainty. This virus is also considered as an arboviral disease which simply means that it is arthropod-borne, thus requiring that all health care providers notify the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) if living in the United States.
Additionally, the threat to women who may be pregnant or considering pregnancy is that the Zika Virus has been linked to the occurrence of not only the Gillian-Barres Syndrome but Microcephaly. First reports began to be recorded in May 2015 in Brazil and have since increased to a point of cautions being issued worldwide.
Usually, the Zika Virus disease only last for several days to a week, with most people not getting sick enough to even go to the hospital, and death is rare. Symptoms include:
muscle and joint pain
conjunctivitis (red/runny eyes)
If you suspect Zika or may have been exposed to mosquitoes in an affected area, and you show any signs of these symptoms, please see your health-care provider. If you are sick with Zika, prevent exposure and being bitten by other mosquitoes as while you got the illness from a mosquito, they can likewise get it from biting an infected person, thus creating a viral cycle of life that is endless.
Pregnancy Risk and Zika
In May of 2015, word began to spread that the Zika virus was suspected of causing Guilliame-Barres syndrome and the birth defect, Microcephaly, in Brazil. Since that time, there has been a steady increase in cases linked to the Zika virus in Brazil and other South American countries. With the constant incline in these numbers and other reports from other areas of the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a “public health emergency of international concern.”
While there is no definitive proof to date that the Zika virus can cause Microcephaly, a WHO spokesperson is cited as stating that there is a “high associated in time and space” as relates the presence of the Zika virus and the rise in neurological complication in birth defects. Between October 2015 and January 2016, Brazil alone has reported over 4,000 cases of microcephalic births. While investigations continue, and some of these instances have been discarded from the count, the numbers are still staggering.
(Microcephaly is rare and is a neurological condition. The result is that the child’s head is smaller than normal. The brain has not developed properly and, therefore, causes intellectual disability.)
Can You Protect Yourself?
Precautions must be made as no vaccine exists, especially if you are currently pregnant or are planning a pregnancy. The CDC recommends: If you are in any trimester, you should consider postponing your travel to affected areas. If you cannot postpone, consult your healthcare provider first and follow their advice on avoiding mosquito bites.
According to the CDC, it is safe to use an EPA-Registered insect repellent when used according to the directions.
If you decide to continue your trip, cover yourself to the best extent possible. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and head coverings. Only stay in places that offer mosquito protections such as those with air conditioning and door and window screens. If you are staying outside or in a location without screening, use mosquito netting.
If you are pregnant, when you arrive home to check in with your healthcare provider so that the development of you unborn child can be monitored carefully. The CDC notes that the virus usually remains only for a few days in the blood of an infected person. It further indicates that the virus will not cause infections if the child is conceived after the virus has cleared from the blood. It is not known whether a child that gets Zika at birth can develop Microcephaly after the fact, otherwise known as Acquired Microcephaly.
CDC Noted Travel Areas With Confirmed Zika Virus
Travel to any of these locations is at risk. While travel is not prohibited, caution should be used:
American Samoa, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Martinique, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, Tonga, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela.
Within the past few days of this writing, there has been at least one confirmed case of the Zika virus in the United States. With travel being so prevalent throughout the world, precautions must be made to alert pregnant women to the risk that they are putting themselves and their unborn child in when visiting many of these areas. Keeping abreast of the news of the Zika virus will be advantageous to all concerned. Seek further information by using some of the links noted below and if you are pregnant and have concerns, please consult your healthcare provider.