Zika Virus Low Risk for Kentuckians
February 03, 2016
Zika Virus: Low Risk for Kentuckians
LOUISVILLE, KY (Feb. 2, 2016) – A tiny mosquito is making big headlines in South America, Central America and the Caribbean – and creating some concern in the United States where about three dozen travelers have reportedly been infected with the Zika virus.
The virus has been linked to birth defects in the babies of mothers who became infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy. However, very little is known about it.
“When you don’t know a lot about a certain disease, people are naturally curious and concerned,” said Ben Klausing, MD, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist Health Medical Group.
The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects as an international health emergency on Monday, Feb. 1.
The main worry has been the virus’s possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with smaller heads, although it has not been proven that the Zika virus is the cause of these birth defects. Researchers are also looking into whether the Zika virus is a danger to people other than pregnant women.
Here’s what you need to know about the Zika outbreak:
Pregnant women traveling to South America, the Caribbean or some parts of Africa are the most likely to be affected by the Zika virus. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued a travel advisory for pregnant women, asking that they postpone trips to affected areas. Those trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctor before traveling to these areas and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. For a complete list of Zika-affected countries, go to http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo.
“As a threat to people in Kentucky, I think we won’t see anything widespread, if at all,” said Dr. Klausing.
As of Feb. 2, only one case had been known to originate in the United States. The primary affected areas are South America, Latin American and the Caribbean.
The Zika virus is spread mostly by the bite of an infected mosquito – a type not commonly found in Kentucky – and the mosquito has to get it from an infected person. This mosquito, called Aedes aegypti, survives year-round in parts of Arizona, Texas and Florida, although it has been spotted as far north as Washington, D.C. This same type of mosquito has been linked to yellow fever and dengue.
In the one U.S. case, confirmed in Texas on Tuesday, Feb. 2, the patient was infected through sexual contact with an ill individual who had returned from a Zika-infected area.
The Zika virus was first discovered in Africa in 1947. Until last year, when it was found in Brazil, it had never been a threat in the Western Hemisphere.
Zika is more prevalent in Central and South America because the virus is more commonly passed by the type of mosquitos there.
The big concern over the Zika virus is its possible link to microcephaly in babies – a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than normal. These babies often have smaller brains that may not have developed properly. Researchers are currently studying this link.
No vaccine exists to prevent Zika. The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, staying in places with air conditioning, window and door screens to keep out mosquitos, using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellants, and treating clothing and gear with permethrin.
Dr. Klausing recommends preventing mosquitoes of any kind around your home. Ways to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard include eliminating standing water in containers such as dog bowls and bird baths, tossing items that may harbor mosquitos such as old tires, and cleaning clogged gutters. Tie tarps tightly over barbecue grills and patio furniture so that water doesn’t pool in the folds. Treat your yard for the pests.
Sexual transmission can be prevented by abstinence or the use of condoms.
Do I have Zika?
Only one in five, or 20 percent, of people infected with the Zika virus become mildly ill. Symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes sometimes accompanied by muscle pain and headache.
Hospitalizations are uncommon; deaths are rare.
Doctors aren’t sure how long Zika takes to develop once a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, but it is thought to be a few days to a week.
See your doctor if you develop these symptoms AND have travelled to an area where the Zika virus is known to be common. A blood test may be ordered to determine whether you’re infected.
There are no medications to treat Zika.
For the latest information about the Zika virus, go to www.cdc.gov.