The news on the Zika virus keeps evolving, as the number of travel-associated cases in the United State continues to grow.
As of Feb. 10, there were 52 travel-associated cases of Zika virus in the United States, including 16 in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Feb. 3 directed state Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Lee and Santa Rosa counties relating to travel-associated cases of Zika virus found in those counties.
At the time, those counties had reported a total of nine travel-associated cases of the Zika virus.
The Zika virus is spread through the bites of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same species that spreads dengue and chikungunya viruses, according to the CDC.
It also can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, the CDC reports. It also notes that cases have been reported of the Zika virus spreading through blood transfusion or sexual contact.
There is no vaccine available for the Zika virus.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting several days to a week. Hospitalization is uncommon.
There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies of mothers who had Zika virus while pregnant, according to the CDC. Knowledge of the link between Zika and birth defects is evolving, but until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women.
Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected, when compared to babies of the same sex and age, the CDC says. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly, according to the CDC.
The Zika virus also has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages his or her nerve cells, but the CDC says more information is needed.
The Brazil Ministry of Heath has reported an increased number of people who have been infected with the Zika virus who also have Guillain-Barre syndrome. The CDC is working with Brazil to study a possible link.
The CDC recommends that people protect themselves by avoiding the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which bites primarily during the day.
To help protect yourself, the CDC recommends people:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outdoors or unable to keep mosquitoes out
- Use repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Follow product label instructions
- Reapply as directed
It also offers these additional tips: Do not spray repellent on skin under clothing, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent and do not apply insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months.
To protect your child, dress him or her in clothing that covers the arms and legs. Also, do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth or cut or irritated skin, the CDC says.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued an advisory for women who are pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant.
Women who are pregnant should consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If they do travel to one of those areas, they should talk to their doctor or other health care provider first, and be sure to follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Women who are trying to become pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant should consult with their health care provider before traveling and should follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Also, the CDC notes that it is safe for pregnant women to use mosquito repellent. It is safe for women who are breastfeeding to use mosquito repellent, too. Anyone using a repellent should choose one that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
- Should a woman who has traveled to an area with Zika virus be tested for the virus?
- She should see her health care provider if she develops a rash, fever, joint pain or red eyes within two weeks of traveling to a country where Zika virus cases have been reported.
- Can a previous Zika virus infection cause someone who later becomes pregnant to have an infant with microcephaly?
- We do not know the risk to the baby if a woman is infected with the Zika virus while she is pregnant. However, Zika virus infection doesn’t pose a risk of birth defects for future pregnancies.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
Published February 17, 2016