Zika Virus: What You Need to Know and How to Prevent It

Category:  News
Friday, March 11th, 2016 at 10:36 PM

Edinboro University sent out an email to all students before the start of Spring Break advising them not to travel to Mexico or Central and South America during Spring Break because of the current Zika outbreak.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on their website that, The Zika Virus disease is a disease cause by the Zika virus that is spread primarily through the bite from an infected day-time Aedes aegypti mosquito. It is currently classified as Level 1 priority¬¬—the highest priority level possible.

Most people won’t know they are infected because they won’t have symptoms. The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache or conjunctivitis (red eyes), which are all relatively mild and common symptoms. Symptoms can start anywhere from a few days to a week after being bit by an infected mosquito and symptoms do not show in every case.

There is currently no vaccine or medication that exists to prevent or treat the Zika virus disease. The CDC advises persons residing in or traveling to areas of active Zika virus disease to take steps to prevent infection from mosquito bites.

The Zika Virus has been around since 1945 and was local to the areas of tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Before 2007, at least 14 cases were documented, although the CDC thinks it is likely other cases have occurred, and possibly in other locations, since the symptoms are so similar to that of many other diseases, and since mosquitos travel globally.

The CDC stated, in May 2015, that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first infection of Zika in Brazil. The CDC activated their Emergency Operations Center (EOC), January 22, 2016, and the outbreak was moved to a level 1 priority. On Feb. 1, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika Virus as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

Since then many other countries and territories have reported cases of the people contracting the virus, including multiple states in the U.S. The CDC warns the virus will likely continue to spread to new areas.

So far the CDC Zika Travel Information has listed travel notices in Cape Verde; Caribbean including, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominican, Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rice, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also in Central America; including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico; Pacific Islands including American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga; and South American including, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela.

The CDC reported that the Virus does not cause illness in all cases, and most of the symptoms are generally mild and self-limited, and hospitalization is uncommon. However, recent evidence has suggested a possible association between maternal Zika Virus infection and possible microcephaly, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome in unborn fetuses.

Microcephaly is a birth defect which causes a baby’s head to be smaller than average when born, usually because of abnormal brain development.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own nervous system. After a while it causes the person to lose control over muscles, resulting in paralysis, and eventually death. It is rare to contract this disease, with statistics of 1 in 100,000, without outside help, such as Zika. However it is not contagious and cannot be passed to another.

Zika virus disease is of concern because of its contagious nature. Sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, based on the report of three cases. The CDC advises men who reside in or travel to an area of active Zika virus to abstain from sex or use protection consistently and correctly, since they are not sure how long the virus may live. Prevention of sexual transmission of Zika can be done through using condoms or abstaining from sex.

Testing for Zika Virus can be acquired at local laboratories. Most people who will be treated and tested are pregnant women who have been bitten by a mosquito and have these symptoms.

The CDC is taking steps to ensure public safety. They are developing laboratory tests to diagnose Zika disease, conducting studies about Zika, microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, monitoring and reporting cases of Zika, providing travel guidance, surveillance for the virus in the U.S. and U.S. territories, and providing support to Puerto Rice, Brazil, Colombia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Panama on the ground.

CDC advises prevention through the form of avoiding mosquito bites. Most mosquitos that carry the virus are day-time Aedes mosquitos. It warns that mosquitos that carry Zika may also carry dengue and cikungunya viruses, which are viral infections, spread also by the Aedes mosquito. The Dengue and cikungunya both cause similar symptoms of high fever, headache, eye ache, joint pain, rashes and lethargy.

Steps to prevent mosquito bites are as follows; wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, stay in places with air-conditioning, or use screens on windows, sleep under a mosquito net, if you must sleep outside, use EPA registered insect repellents, and treat clothing with permethrin (insect repellant made for clothing) and do not use permethrin on skin.

They also advise that when dealing with small children to use mosquito netting on cribs and strollers, and to apply insect repellant to your hands, then onto child’s face and skin, so as to avoid getting it into their eyes or mouth.

Be aware of the symptoms as well as be cautious when being outdoors, even in the U.S. If you are pregnant and are bitten, seek medical attention. Stay informed on what is happening in the world and community.

Anna Ashcraft is the Managing Editor of Arts for The Spectator.

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