Expert Health Articles

Zika Virus

Dr. Dawn HochstettlerDr. Dawn Hochstettler

Blanchard Valley Women & Children’s Center

While it may seem like the world is just hearing about the Zika virus, it was first identified in 1947 in Uganda. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness with the first outbreak recorded in Brazil in May 2015. Outbreaks of the Zika virus have since been reported in Mexico and other South American countries.

Aside from mosquito bites, the Zika virus can also be transmitted sexually. Men and women are both at risk for being infected with the Zika virus, with almost everyone experiencing mild symptoms or no symptoms. However, this illness is concerning for pregnant women, especially in the first trimester. If an expectant woman is infected early in her pregnancy, there is an increased risk of the baby having birth defects such as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any pregnant women postpone traveling to areas where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Some individuals can also experience muscle pain and headaches. These symptoms can last several days to a week.

If you have recently traveled to an area where the Zika virus is transmitted and you are pregnant, please notify your health care provider where and when you traveled. If you experience any symptoms of the virus and you are pregnant, your provider may order a blood test to look for Zika or other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue or yellow fever.

Currently, there are no vaccinations or treatments for the Zika virus, but the following tips can be used for symptom relief:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • For fever-relief, take acetaminophen such as Tylenol, but avoid taking aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.

For everyone, including those who are pregnant, prevention of Zika virus is key. Avoid traveling to countries with prevalence of the Zika virus and avoid mosquito bites as much as possible. The specific mosquito transmitting the virus bites primarily during the daytime. You can prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing clothes to cover up as much of your body as possible, keeping physical barriers such as screens and closed doors and using mosquito nets. Men who reside in or have traveled to an area with active Zika virus infection who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual intercourse or consistently and correctly use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.

For more information of the Zika virus, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).