Although it’s not been featured recently in the news, Zika is still a concern for women in the U.S. and U.S. Territories. A recent report stated that 10% of women in the U.S. with Zika infections gave birth to a baby with virus-related birth defects. In the U.S., from the beginning of January 2015, until the end of April 2017, almost 6,000 women were reported to have the Zika virus disease. While most people affected were returning from affected area, 224 people became infected from mosquitos carrying the Zika virus in Florida and Texas.
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, but the disease can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners, even if the infected person does not have symptoms at the time. Zika can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
“Zika virus can be scary and potentially devastating to families,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement. “Zika virus continues to be a threat to pregnant women across the U.S. With warm weather and a new mosquito season approaching, prevention is crucial to protect the health of mothers and babies.”
Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, and muscle pain.
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious damage to the brain and microcephaly in developing fetuses. Affected babies may be born with brain abnormalities, vision problems, hearing loss and problems moving limbs.
No vaccine for Zika exists. If you live in an affected area (Texas or South Florida), make sure to take preventative measures:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
- Take steps to control mosquitoes in and around your home (Recommendations from the CDC).
Many of the women acquired the viral infection while traveling to a Zika-afflicted region. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop symptoms and you live in or have recently traveled to an area with risk of Zika.
CDC overview of Zika: https://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html
CDC Press Release – https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0404-zika-pregnancy.html