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Public Health advisory: Zika virus

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexxis Pons

U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Alexxis Pons


Are you wondering what all the fuss is about in the news lately? Do you have questions about the Zika virus? Are you wondering if it’s safe to travel? Well, here are the answers to those questions!


The Zika virus is mosquito-borne and caused by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegyptus and possibly the Aedes Albopictus mosquito species. These species are found from Texas to below the Mason-Dixon Line [anything below Pennsylvania].


The name is from the Zika forest in Uganda where the virus was first discovered in a monkey in 1947. The virus was first believed to affect only monkeys, but was later found in humans. The first cases caused mild illness, fever, rash, joint pain and red/pink eyes [conjunctivitis].


These symptoms still occur today and normally last 2-7 days. Severe cases of Zika can last up to a month and cause the need for hospitalization. Since its discovery, the Zika virus has been found in countries near the equator in Africa, Asia, Caribbean Islands, Pacific Islands, Central and South America.


Recently it has been a trending topic because of its confirmed presence in 23 countries in Central and South America, including Brazil where the 2016 Olympics will be held. This has state officials scrambling to organize a more aggressive fumigation plan to fight the Zika virus.


The most serious threat with the Zika virus is the possible spread of the infection from a pregnant woman to her fetus. The bite of the infected Aedes mosquito with Zika is being linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth malformation causing the unborn baby’s head to be smaller than normal.


Since September 2015, Brazil has registered more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly. Currently, there is insufficient knowledge of studies to confirm a definitive link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.


In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization confirmed the first Zika virus infection in Brazil. Within the United States there have been no locally transmitted Zika cases, but there have been 31 reported cases from travelers coming home from Central and South America, and it is expected that the number of cases amongst travelers will increase.


There is no particular test or vaccine for the Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following tips to prevent against the Zika virus when traveling to countries where the Zika virus exists:


-Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.

-Stay in places that have air conditioning or places that use window and door screens.

-Sleep under a mosquito bed net if not able to protect from mosquito bites.

-Use Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellants such as those with DEET.

-Treat clothing and gear with permethrin (do not use permethrin products directly on your skin).


For additional information on the Zika virus, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html. For Public Health related concerns, please call 575-784-4926.