Zika Virus - How to Stay Safe This Summer

Chances are you probably hadn’t heard of the Zika virus just a few months ago. That’s because the illness was localized to certain tropical areas. But now it is spreading. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared Zika as a public health emergency of international concern.

Mosquito-borne viruses are not new; so, why is Zika such a concern? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it has the potential of spreading to areas where residents have not developed any immunity. There is also no vaccine or treatment.  Zika is also associated with serious complications like birth malformations and neurological syndromes. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

What is the Zika virus?
Zika belongs to the Flaviviridae family of viruses and was originally discovered among rhesus monkeys living in Uganda’s Zika Forest in 1947. Researchers soon thereafter learned that it’s carried by infected Aedes mosquitoes and is related to other mosquito-borne viruses like dengue fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.   


How is it spread?
The most common mode of transmission is being bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. But men with Zika can pass it on to a male or female sexual partner, and there have been cases linked to blood transfusions.


Where has Zika been diagnosed?
Until recently, Zika cases were limited to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. However, it recently began spreading throughout Central America, the Caribbean and American territories, more specifically, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

Scientists suspect that as the Aedes mosquitoes range increases, so will the number of Zika cases. The CDC is concerned these mosquitoes will expand their range to U.S. Gulf Coast cities like Tampa-St. Petersburg, New Orleans and Houston.

The CDC recently reported almost 600 cases of Zika in the United States, but these cases were contracted elsewhere when infected persons traveled.


What are the symptoms?
Experts believe that it takes several days after contracting Zika to develop symptoms. Although not all cases of Zika produce symptoms, when they do occur, they’re generally vague and mild and can last up to one week. Typical symptoms include: 
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle/joint aches and pain
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Eye irritation
If you are experiencing these symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor, especially if you’ve recently traveled to an area of the world in which Zika is present. Tests are available to detect the presence of Zika.    


Can Zika cause long-term complications?
Not for most people; in fact, the majority of people infected with Zika don’t even realize it. Additionally, after a Zika infection, our bodies develop antibodies that can fight off the virus if you are exposed to it again.

However, health officials in French Polynesia and Brazil noted a correlation between Zika outbreaks and an increase in the number of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a painful neurological disorder that weakens muscles and reflexes, potentially leading to paralysis, respiratory distress and death.

The primary concern is pregnant women, particularly in the first trimester. Researchers believe Zika causes birth defects in fetuses, including microcephaly. Microcephaly is a neurological condition that interferes with the development of the brain, causing an infant’s head to be abnormally small. 


Is treatment available?
Zika does not have a specific course of treatment. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may suggest rest, fluids and pain relievers. More severe symptoms may require more involved medical intervention.


Should I postpone my travel plans?
The CDC has issued a travel alert advising pregnant women to delay traveling to countries and territories where the Zika virus is active. Moreover, men with pregnant partners who travel to these areas should use a condom once they return to the United States.


How can I help prevent contracting the Zika virus?
There really is no method of preventing Zika, other than protecting yourself against mosquitoes, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

The National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center and 18 other institutions are in the process of developing a vaccine against Zika. Experts predict that it may take up to two years before the vaccine enters into clinical trials and up to another 12 years before it’s approved for public use. Vaccines currently exist for other Flaviviridae viruses such as yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever and Tick-borne encephalitis.

If you are concerned about insect-borne viruses like Zika, talk to your MDVIP-affiliated physician. They have the time and resources to answer your questions, as well as consult leading medical experts via our Medical Centers of Excellence program. If you don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor, click here to locate one. 
12 Comments
LANE
Jun 28th, 2016
If many cases of Zika are asymptomatic, how long does it remain in your system? How long after exposure to Zika have birth defects occurred, does it only effect a current pregnancy or is it in your system for months and years to come effecting any future pregnancy? If a partner has contracted Zika how long after is it safe to attempt a pregnancy or is there even any research on that?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 28th, 2016
Greetings Lane,

The CDC does not have answers to many of the questions you pose. According to the CDC, the Zika virus generally remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week; however, the virus has been found to last longer in some people. If a pregnant woman is exposed to Zika, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she will contract the virus. If she does, her symptoms would probably begin appearing in about a week. It’s not known if or to what extent the virus will affect the pregnancy, if the virus will be passed to the fetus, or if the fetus will develop birth defects. If birth defects occur as a result of Zika, they would develop sometime during the pregnancy. At this time, the CDC does not believe that contracting Zika poses a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies. This is because the virus clears in about a week. Because Zika is considered a sexually transmitted virus, it’s important for a man to use a condom if he thinks he or his partner may have been exposed to Zika. Of course, in terms of Zika prevention, condoms are not necessary on a long-term basis, as the virus seems to clear one’s system in about a week.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Deanna
Jun 27th, 2016
Thank you for the information on the information about the ill-effects and the spread of the Zika virus. It's good to know there's a vaccine in the works, even though it will be a long time before it is available for human use.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 28th, 2016
Greetings Deanna,

We’re glad we were able to provide information to you. Yes, we agree; it’s good to know that a vaccine is in the works.

In Good Health,
MDVIP
Tom Winstead
Jun 25th, 2016
A good way to avoid mosquito bites is to take Garlic tablets. Since I started that in 1990, I haven't had a single mosquito bite. I started on 2000 mg tablets for a couple of years, then went to 1000 mg tablets. The "odorless" tablets have some odor, but that isn't a serious problem compared to Zika virus.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 28th, 2016
Greetings Tom,

While many people rely on garlic to ward off mosquitoes, you may be interested to know that there is no actual science supporting its use as a mosquito repellent. However, there are studies that suggest garlic has many health benefits. This article from Cleveland Clinic explains six ways garlic can help boost your health. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/02/6-surprising-ways-garlic-boosts-your-health/

In Good Health,
MDVIP
judith anderson
Jun 23rd, 2016
Thanks for the information
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2016
Greetings Judith,

You’re welcome. We hope you found the information helpful.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Betty Lee
Jun 23rd, 2016
Thank you so much for info re. Zika Virus and know that MDVIP physicians are on top of the problem.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2016
Greetings Betty,

Thank you for your kind words. And yes, our doctors are on top of it.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

G. Wagner
Jun 23rd, 2016
Any chance the rash could be mistaken for shingles? I was recently in St. John USVI and broke out in a rash 1 week after returning home. It was diagnosed as a mild case of shingles.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2016
Greetings G.

If you have questions about your rash or your diagnosis, it’s in your best interest to discuss them with your doctor, as skin eruptions associated with shingles are quite distinctive. This article on shingles, from the Mayo Clinic, may be able to answer some of your questions. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/basics/definition/con-20019574

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Mary tyra
Jun 22nd, 2016
Good information ..thanks you
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2016
Greetings Mary,

We’re glad the information was helpful. Take care.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Doris Baucom
Jun 22nd, 2016
Thanks much for the info on ZIKA virus. Very enlightening.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 24th, 2016
Greetings Doris,

We’re happy we were able to provide you the latest on the Zika virus.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Mary
Jun 22nd, 2016
Very informational. Thank you for enlightening me.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 22nd, 2016
Greetings Mary,

Thank you very much. We’re glad that we’ve provided you with helpful information.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Gladys J. Willis
Jun 21st, 2016
Very informative information. Thanks for sharing.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 22nd, 2016
Greetings Gladys,

We’re glad to hear that you found this article helpful. Thank you for the kind words.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Mike
Jun 21st, 2016
Thank you for this concise report. It's nice to be able to get the facts on Zika without the hyperbole that is so often found in the media.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jun 22nd, 2016
Greetings Mike,

We’re glad you found the blog concise and informative. Your comments are appreciated.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

SHARLA
Jun 20th, 2016
FOR ALISHA
Leave Blog Comment