Before 2015, you most likely had never heard of the Zika virus. It was found mainly in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands until May 2015, when the virus was discovered for the first time in Brazil. Since then it has continued to spread around the globe to places including the Caribbean Islands, Central America, Mexico, South America, and Puerto Rico. Although the virus has not yet spread from one person to another in the United States through a mosquito, experts believe that it’s likely to happen, and soon.
So here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus to be prepared.
What is the Zika virus? The Zika virus is spread through infected mosquitoes. Named after the Zika forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered in 1947, these mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and around standing water. They prefer to bite people, and typically live both indoors and outdoors near people. Though these mosquitoes are most aggressive during the day, they can also bite at night.
How is the Zika virus contracted? Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Those infected mosquitoes then spread the virus to other people through bites. The majority of infections are not contagious, however Zika has been reported to spread through blood transfusions, sexual contact with a man, and although rare can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy and/or delivery.
How do I know if I’ve contract the Zika virus? Symptoms are typically mild and usually occur 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will manifest symptoms, which means you can have the virus and not know it. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes (conjunctivitis) and last for a few days to a week before going away completely. If you’ve recently traveled to an area where the virus is present and exhibit these symptoms, your doctor can confirm whether or not you’re infected through a blood test.
How is Zika treated? Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Zika, but you can take steps to help relieve symptoms:
- Get as much rest as you can.
- Stay hydrated.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain and fever.
*Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory until your provider confirms that you do not have dengue. These medicines can cause bleeding in people with dengue.
How do I prevent the Zika virus? There is no vaccine for Zika. The best method of prevention is to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes, especially if you’re traveling to areas where Zika is present. The CDC recommends the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
If you think you or someone you know has contracted the Zika, contact your doctor, avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes to prevent the spread of the virus, and follow the steps listed above to help relieve your symptoms.
The best method of prevention is education.
To hear what doctors are saying about the Zika virus you can listen to a free audio lecture from Oakstone Publishing, here.
You can also learn more about the Zika virus from A.D.A.M.’s responsive Wellness Tools located within our SmartEngage product. If you have more questions ask a doctor. If you are interested in licensing our content, please contact us.