The Mosquito Strikes Again

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

You’ve probably seen some headlines about the Zika virus lately. The virus, spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, was linked to people traveling in countries in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America. The virus is spreading among mosquitoes and people alike in Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Maybe you ignored it because you haven’t traveled lately and after all, it isn’t mosquito season. But take note: last week, Texas health officials reported the first case of sexual transmission of the Zika virus in the United States. The patient contracted the virus from a sexual partner who was ill with Zika; the partner had become infected while traveling to Venezuela.

In addition, the American Red Cross is asking people not to donate blood if they have been to Latin America or the Caribbean in the past month. And yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that its emergency operations center has been put on “Level 1” status, its highest level of activation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here’s what else you need to know:

  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Symptoms typically start 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.
  • Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus or medicine to help the infection. The best way to prevent the disease is to avoid being bitten by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; staying in places with air conditioning or window screens to keep mosquitoes outside; and using EPA-registered insect repellents.
  • There have been reports of serious birth defects of the brain called microcephaly, as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes for babies whose mothers were infected with the virus.
  • If you develop symptoms or have recently traveled and think you may be infected, contact your healthcare provider.

For more information, visit the CDC’s page about the Zika virus.

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