Hardly a day goes by without Zika virus making headlines. Something that was once confined to Brazil has spread world-wide thanks to the ease of international travel. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a travel warning for parts of the U.S. (specifically, Miami). But how much do you need to worry? Read on to find out.
How is Zika spread?
Zika can be passed to humans three ways. The most common way the virus is spread is by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters but they can also bite at night! They generally don’t travel very far (about 500 feet in their lifetime), often living in a single home their entire life. This is why the travel warning for Miami is two very specific neighborhoods. Zika is also sexually transmitted. The main concern about Zika stems from the third way the virus is passed, from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.
Many people infected with the virus won’t show any symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms are: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Symptoms can last for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital and they rarely die. A simple blood or urine test can confirm if you have Zika.
The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Use insect repellent with high percentages of active ingredients, wear long sleeves and pants, stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens, and remove standing water from your home.
Some families are choosing to delay pregnancy, postpone travel, or change their behaviors because of the birth defects associated with the virus. Your doctor can address any concerns you may have about pregnancy and test you and your partner for potential Zika infection. If your partner lives in or travels to an area infected with Zika, use condoms during the remainder of your pregnancy or abstain from sex to prevent spreading the infection to the baby.
Need some more helpful tips?
Download these helpful fliers from the CDC to find out more about the virus and what the CDC is doing about it!
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