The Zika virus has quickly become a global health epidemic. It is named for the Zika Forest of Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947. Zika is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. Learn more about the history of the Zika virus here. (http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/history/en/)
Zika can be transmitted a variety of ways, the first of which is by mosquitoes. Zika is carried by both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. A single bite from either can carry the Zika virus with it. These are also the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikegunya. Learn more about Zika and mosquitoes here. (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/index.html)
Another transmission vector is from mother to child during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who is infected with Zika can transmit the virus to her fetus. If a woman already has Zika and becomes pregnant the virus can be transmitted to the fetus as well. To date there have been no known cases of Zika transmission through breast feeding.
The third transmission vector is through sex. Zika can be transferred to a sex partner even if the infected person shows no symptoms. Studies are under way to discover how long the Zika virus stays in bodily fluids and for how long it can be transmitted to a partner. Learn more about preventing sexual transmission of Zika here. (http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/zika/sexual-transmission-prevention/en/)
Most people infected with Zika will display mild or no symptoms. Physical symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Zika can also cause mild headaches and muscle pain.
The Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. It can cause birth defects such as microcephaly, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. Pregnant women should take extra precautions against contracting Zika. Travel to areas with Zika should be avoided. If you must travel, speak with your doctor about a safe travel plan. Learn more about Zika and Pregnancy here. (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/index.html)
United States Locations
The only cases of local transmission in the continental United States have been reported in Florida. However, widespread local transmission has been reported in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more about the US rates here. (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html) If you are planning to travel outside the U.S. you find additional resources here. (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information)
There are several steps you can take to prevent mosquito bites. You should wear insect repellent, and you can protect your children by draping mosquito netting over their crib or stroller. Children and adults should wear long-sleeve clothing and pants to minimize exposed skin to mosquitoes. You can also repair holes in screens and take other steps to control mosquitoes around your home.
It’s important to monitor mosquito breeding areas and to be aware of any mosquito breeding problems. Then you can remove places where mosquitoes lay eggs and any nearby standing water. Baby mosquitoes need water to survive so if you remove the standing water, the mosquitoes will be forced to lay their eggs elsewhere.
For more tips on keeping yourself and your family safe from Zika, check out the CDC website here (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/comm-resources/index.html) and the WHO site here. (http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/situation-report/en/)