As the summer heat continues, the desire to seek solace in cool water areas such as pools, ponds, and lakes increases. The outdoors is a great way to enjoy the summer, however, in light of the media’s recent reports of the Zika virus and its detection in individuals who have not traveled abroad, I thought it would be a good time to review the Zika virus and how you can lessen the chances of getting infected all the while enjoying the outdoor summer activities.
First of all, Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito bites. Once infected with the virus, it can spread either by person to person, mother to child, blood transfusion, or by sexual contact. Up until recently, the reported cases have involved people who have traveled internationally to areas where the mosquitos carried the virus. However, as we learned recently in Florida, we presently have suspected cases whereby non-travelers exhibit the illness. Mosquitos get Zika from biting humans who have the virus and then biting another individual thereby inoculating them with the virus. The virus can also spread through sexual contact from males to females and from females to males. There have also been reported cases in same-sex partners. To date, there have not been any reported cases in which blood transfusion transmitted the virus.
Zika Virus Symptoms
Zika virus symptoms are fever, rash—flat and red with small raised bumps —red eyes, and aches involving muscles and joints. Luckily, most people won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. It has been linked to birth defect called microcephaly, a condition where the baby’s head is much smaller than expected, potentially causing developmental delays. There have not been any reported cases of pets among other kinds of animals spreading nor contracting Zika. However, one would think that the transmission rate would be similar to humans.
Testing for Zika is based on a person’s recent travel history, sexual exposure, blood transfusion history, signs and symptoms. Your doctor or other healthcare provider may order blood or urine tests to look for the Zika virus.
Zika Virus Treatment and Prevention
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. Your best bet is to protect yourself from getting infected in the first place by following some simple suggestions:
- Use EPA-approved insect repellent.
- Wear pants and long sleeved shirts when outdoors.
- Keep mosquitos out of house by using window screens or closing windows.
- Avoid travel to areas known to have Zika.
- Remove or stay away from mosquito breeding sites like containers with standing water.
- Use condoms or other barrier methods to protect against sexual transmission.
The CDC and The Texas Department of State Health Services offers extensive information on Zika; its transmission, laboratory testing, prevention and further guidance for pregnant woman.
Written by your local emergency physician, Ernesto Lugo DO.
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