You may have heard of the Zika virus, but you want more information about this disease. Knowledge is the way to protect yourself and others.
What Is The Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a disease that is carried by mosquitoes. Starting in the region between Asia and Africa, it started spreading to the American continent in 2007. Since 2015, it has been considered an epidemic. While vaccines are being developed, there is currently no vaccine available to the public.
How Is The Zika Virus Transmitted?
The most common means of transmission are bites from a mosquito. Although th
e main culprit is the Aedes aegypti mosquito
, there are other types of mosquitoes that can transmit the virus.
The virus can be transmitted sexually. Men who are infected with the virus can transmit it through their semen.
Transmission can occur through blood transfusions.
The virus can also be transmitted from infected mothers to their babies. Babies can become infected with the virus during pregnancy or during childbirth.
How Long Is An Infected Person Contagious?
The opinions of physicians vary regarding how long an infected person remains contagious. They range from approximately one week to several weeks.
Numerous factors can influence the length of time a person is infected and contagious. As an example, men who have the virus in their semen are thought to be contagious for a longer period of time.
What Are The Symptoms Of The Zika Virus?
In most cases, otherwise healthy adults experience mild symptoms and do not need medical treatment. They can include flu-like symptoms such as joint pain, muscle pain, rashes, headache, and fever. Conjunctivitis may also occur.
Although severe symptoms are rare, complications can occur. In some instances, the Zika virus results in temporary or permanent neurological damage.
However, it is estimated between 60% and 80% of Zika virus cases occur without symptoms. This is one reason the virus is so dangerous. An infected person may transmit the virus to others without realizing he is infected.
Dangers Of The Zika Virus
The virus is dangerous to average, healthy people because it can result in neurological damage. One example is Guillain-Barre Syndrome. While the severity of GBS varies from person to person, it can lead to permanent paralysis or death.
However, the most serious complications often occur when pregnant women become infected. A woman who is otherwise healthy may not realize she has been bitten by a mosquito or that she has contracted the disease from her partner, because she may not experience any signs or symptoms of the disease.
She can transmit the Zika virus to her fetus while she is pregnant, or the baby may become infected during childbirth. The virus can pose serious dangers to a fetus or a newborn.
Infection can increase the risk of miscarriage. Newborns can be born with birth defects. The most common birth defect associated with the Zika virus is microcephaly. This brain condition can cause serious problems for a child, and in some cases it is fatal.
The Zika Virus Is A Global Threat
The virus is already a health threat, and it has the potential of endangering the world's blood supplies. The scientific community is trying to educate people, sharing data, and continuing to make progress in developing vaccines.
How To Protect Yourself From The Zika Virus
As a vaccine is not yet available, every individual needs to take precautions to protect himself and others. There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.
Use an insect repellent labeled safe by the EPA whenever you are outdoors. Reapply it according to directions.
When you are outdoors, wear long pants and shirts with long sleeves. Light-colored clothing is preferable, as it is easier to see mosquitoes.
Men should always wear condoms when engaging in sexual relations.
Never leave your home open to mosquitoes. Use screens on your doors and windows. As warmth attracts mosquitoes, have air conditioning in your home.
Outdoor water supplies attract mosquitoes. You should especially avoid standing water, or water that is contaminated. Bird baths and gutters should be kept clean or empty. Do not leave your pet's water dishes outdoors.
If you or anyone in your family show symptoms of the Zika virus, consult with your physician immediately. You should also see your doctor if you have visited a high-risk country.
If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about the virus. Ask for a test to make sure you do not have the virus, and ask your doctor's advice on special precautions you can take to avoid it. Do not wait to see if you develop symptoms. You must take special care to protect your baby's health and his life.
You can also do your part to educate others in your community. You can find many people who do not have the facts, are misinformed about risk factors or symptoms, or have not heard of the virus at all. When you help others with information, you can help them reduce their risk and know what to do if they become infected. You can ask your personal physician for advice, too.
While the Zika virus is not going to disappear anytime soon, you can reduce its impact in your own community. Adults, children, pregnant women, and unborn babies can stay healthy. If everyone takes this approach, fewer people will become infected.