You can’t look at the news these days without hearing something about the Zika virus. Until recently, the Zika virus was relatively isolated, however, now it is in the forefront of world health. Beloit Health System’s Infectious Disease expert, Dr. Vijaya Somaraju, says “the arrival of Zika in the Americas brings a new level of awareness and concern.”
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a "public health emergency of international concern" over the Zika virus and the health problems that doctors fear it is causing. The agency said the emergency is warranted because of how fast the mosquito-borne virus is spreading and its suspected link to an alarming spike in babies born with abnormally small heads -- a condition called microcephaly -- in Brazil and French Polynesia. In addition, reported cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus is raising concerns. WHO has not yet issued any guidance on possible prevention of sexual transmission of Zika.
Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) health security plans are designed to effectively monitor for disease, equip diagnostic laboratories, and support mosquito control programs both in the United States and around the world.
“It appears the main concern is the virus’ serious birth defects of the brain,” reports Dr. Somarju. This is a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. It may also cause other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:
Women who are pregnant (in any trimester):
Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
Women who are trying to become pregnant:Before you travel, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
“The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) usually 2-7 days after being bit by the Zika infected mosquito,” Dr. Somaraju states. “The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. 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.
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. We do not know how often Zika is transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found, who has not already been infected with Zika virus, is at risk for infection, including pregnant women.
Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. If traveling, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health site for the most updated travel information.
There is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat Zika virus infection. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. Here’s how:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
“Zika is not a new virus. Outbreaks of Zika previously have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands,” Dr. Somaraju adds. Zika virus likely will continue to spread to new areas.
The CDC reports that with the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika virus disease cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. These imported cases may result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States. CDC has been monitoring these epidemics and is prepared to address cases imported into the United States and cases transmitted locally. You can review more information on http://www.cdc.gov/
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