First, Zika is a viral infection that causes symptoms that are usually mild and clear up in less than a week. Those symptoms include rash, fever, pink eye (conjunctivitis) and joint pain. The fact is, few people (only 1 in 5) actually get symptoms or know that they’ve caught the virus, and only very rarely do the symptoms require a person to be hospitalized.
The danger from the Zika virus concerns pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant. The Zika virus may be responsible for clusters of babies born with abnormally small heads and related birth defects. No direct link has been proven yet, however. The World Health Organization and other agencies are still studying the situation in countries that are heavily affected, including Brazil and other South American countries, areas of Central America, the Caribbean islands, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.
Some cases of Zika virus infection have been reported in the U.S., including here in Florida. Those cases occurred in people who had traveled recently to Zika-infected areas.
Zika Virus Spread
The Zika virus is spread primarily through bites from a particular mosquito. This mosquito is present in the U.S., and it bites mainly during daytime hours, indoors or out. If a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can be transmitted to her baby.
Researchers are still studying whether the virus can also be spread through saliva and urine. It is thought to be spread by sexual contact with men who have traveled to affected areas of the world.
Zika Virus Prevention
Here are the current recommendations from the CDC:
- Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant may want to consider cancelling travel to areas of the world with heavy Zika virus transmission. If they are going to travel to those areas, they should talk to their doctor about ways they can avoid mosquito bites.
- Prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear long-sleeve shirts or long pants made of thicker materials or impregnated with the repellent called permethrin.
- Use insect repellents, especially EPA-registered repellents.
- Indoors, stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms, or use a mosquito bed net.
These are the facts we know at this time. We’ll send you the latest updates as they occur, and we’ll be happy to address any concerns you have by phone or during your office visits.
Our information and recommendations come from several sources, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other national and global agencies.