The Zika virus has been all over the news as of late. Hotspots of outbreak of this virus are popping up all over the world. It appears to be particularly dangerous for pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems. Of course, because it’s never been in the US, there is not much immunity built up here, so it has people on edge. So, should you be concerned about Zika? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika as a mosquito borne illness, and that’s the primary way it is transmitted. I have read a couple of stories of it being passed from person to person as well, which is why it can be scary for pregnant women and infants. Since it’s mosquito borne, that’s the most likely way someone will contract it. Mosquitoes can also carry it from one person to another because one mosquito can often bite several people. The people who are bringing it to the US and other nations are coming from South American countries where the virus has been showing up quite frequently. It falls in to the same category as other mosquito carried diseases, like West Nile.
Symptoms of Zika Virus
The symptoms of Zika are what can be a little tricky. Many people can pass it on or contract it without any real symptoms, or any symptoms that could warrant concern. The presenting symptoms would be a headache, rash, or pinkeye, and fever. Typically these would be considered flu like symptoms. Unfortunately, most of these are the presenting symptoms for a variety of illnesses, so it might not be detected as Zika at first. The reason it is so perilous for pregnant women is that it can cause birth defects, specifically brain damage that is often not considered compatible with life.
Is This Really a Pandemic?
The virus at this point is considered to be at pandemic status, so while there is cause for concern and we should be aware, there isn’t a need for complete shut down of travel or other measures yet. There isn’t a vaccine for Zika right now, and since it’s viral, it’s not certain if a vaccination is even practical. However, you can take measures to prevent Zika.
If you are going to be outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants, and use a mosquito spray or light citronella candles. Use sunscreen. Try avoiding the outdoors during early morning or dusk, when mosquitoes tend to be out in droves. If you were to present with some of the symptoms we discussed, practice good hand washing, limit exposure to others who aren’t sick and talk to your doctor if you are concerned. There is a blood test you can do to determine if you do indeed have Zika, but beyond that, other than prevention methods, there’s not much else to do.
Many of the countries affected by Zika are trying to get the mosquito population under control by spraying and then getting rid of stagnant, standing water. They are also using GMO’s in the fight against the Zika virus and the mosquito population by introducing a genetically modified mosquito into the fold that destroys it’s offspring.
So, as we asked before, should you be worried about Zika? If you’re pregnant, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. Otherwise, it’s definitely a serious issue, but you probably aren’t at much of a risk.