It’s important, today, especially for pregnant women that we are discussing Zika. Zika is not a who, but it definitely is a “what”! Zika is a virus, and it is carried and spread by the bite of a particular mosquito infected with the virus, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This is the mosquito also known as the carrier of Yellow Fever, the Dengue viruses, and the very same mosquito which can carry and spread the Chikungunya virus. It is important for us to be able to identify this mosquito, which is black with tiny white markings on its head, back, legs and a lyre-like white marking on its thorax… if you get that close enough to see it! Here is a link with a very good photo of Zika (and we must give credit to ABC News for publishing this photo, it is excellent!)1 http://abcnews.go.com/Health/florida-gov-declares-state-emergency-counties-zika-virus/story?id=36696887 For obvious reasons, this is a mosquito we don’t want in or around our homes or in places we go. At least in the United States, we expect mosquito prevention and eradication measures, such as pesticide spraying, may be stepped up by appropriate state or federal agencies where the zika virus is present.
The disease itself has symptoms ranging from fever, to rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The symptoms may be mild and last several days to a week. But the effects of Zika virus in pregnant women are most troubling and they include microcephaly, a birth defect, in the offspring of pregnant women who become infected with the virus while they are pregnant. Microcephaly means that the circumference of the head of a (newborn) child is more than two standard deviations below average size for the age and sex of a child. Simply put, the virus may cause a child’s head not to be fully developed in size if his or her mother was infected with the virus while she was pregnant with that child.
Before 2015, Zika virus outbreaks occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, but the virus is now heavily present in Central and South America (although not in Chile). It is also in the United States, but not yet in Canada. The CDC and the World Health Organization note that the virus’ spread is rapidly on the increase in various countries. Governor of Florida Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in Florida as several cases of Zika have been identified and isolated there. One theory being checked also is that the disease may have been sexually transmitted, from an infected partner to another person. Although this has not yet been fully confirmed, taking precautions, especially if you are pregnant and you are traveling or have traveled to areas where Zika is present, is a very sound idea. Pregnant women are recommended not to travel to areas where the zika virus exists presently. If you are already in those areas you are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks which cover your skin in order to prevent a bite. Stay in places where there are windows and door screens. Pay attention to instructions for applying insect repellents. There are special instructions for the use of insect repellents with children. To be more informed about this disease, please visit CDC’s Fact Sheet on Zika at cdc.gov/zika/disease-qa.html
There is currently NO Vaccine yet developed or specific treatment advised for the Zika virus.
1 ABC News, “Florida Governor Declares State of Emergency in Counties with Zika Virus”, February 3, 2016, ABC News, 47 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023,http://abcnews.go.com/Health/florida-gov-declares-state-emergency-counties-zika-virus/story?id=36696887