Another year, another new virus that threatens the health of mankind. The Zika virus is the newest scare that can have major consequences if ever infected. Carried by daytime active mosquitoes the Zika virus is related to yellow fever, dengue, and the West Nile virus. Around since the late 1940’s, it isn’t until recently that the severe effects of the Zika virus have come to light. The virus has spread across the Pacific Ocean since 2013 and has made its way to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, reaching pandemic levels. The virus is a real threat to pregnant women and their unborn children. If infected the virus can spread from the mother to the baby causing microcephaly, which is a condition where the fetus’s brain doesn’t develop properly resulting in smaller than normal sized head. The disease can be present at the time of birth or may present later in the first few years of the baby’s life. Microcephaly can cause poor speech, seizures, delayed motor function, and abnormal facial features.
The Zika virus can be transmitted through mosquito bite, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and blood transfusion. It is very important that you recognize symptoms of the Zika Virus. The symptoms include “Zika Fever”, which entails a red pimply rash, a fever, headache, joint pains, and conjunctivitis. It is documented that in most confirmed cases that it starts with a mild headache and the other symptoms soon appear. After about two days most of the symptoms are gone and only the rash, although not as severe, remains. As of today there is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus although symptoms can be treated through rest, fluids, aspirin and other non-inflammatory drugs.
Due to the new known facts about the virus pregnant women are being warned to travel to countries where the virus is wide spread. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued warnings of travel and urge the use of enhanced precautions especially for pregnant women. Although a lot has been learned about the Zika virus there are still mysteries about the virus and the fight for a vaccine is on going. The only preventive measures at this point is to be careful about where you travel and to wear bug spray when outside, even in the United States. Do what you can to prevent standing water pools. Get rid of sources of standing water by getting rid yard garbage like old containers and tires that collect water providing an excellent breeding medium for mosquitoes. The Zika virus like so many others is to be taken seriously but not so seriously that you stop living your life. As of right now the risk of the Zika virus in the United States is low but nothing is ever guaranteed. Be safe, be smart, cover up when outdoors, and use bug spray!