So I am sure that you have heard about the “breakout” of Zika Virus (ZV) throughout South America and some in the Virgin Islands. Although the cable news channels do a fairly good job of covering this topic, many people are still left with many questions. I am going to try and do the best to answer the questions I have been hearing on campus and around town.
ZV, according to the CDC, is a virus spread through mosquito bites and cause what is known as Zika fever. ZV is a member of the Genus Flavivirus; other Viruses in this Genus include the West Nile, Yellow fever, Dengue Virus and few more. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. It has also most notoriously been linked to causing birth defects to newborns of infected mothers. Medical diagnosis requires lab tests of some kind because the symptoms are not very unique. The virus can not be cured, but treatment may help and usually does help.
It is important to know that even though adults can be infected it is highly unlikely to cause death or have life altering outcomes. On the other hand, Zika virus does have a grievous consequence on unborn baby if the mom is infected while in utero, but if a female who gets infected is properly diagnosed and undergoes the treatment (usually take 2-3 weeks) to clear the virus from her system, it will not transmit Zika to future babies. If a mother with the Virus does transmit it to her unborn child, the baby will be born with defects typically abnormally tiny heads(microcephaly) which causes potential debilitating brain damage.
WORRIED? SHOULD WE BE?
You may have heard that the governments of Brazil and El Salvador have suggested mothers refrain from pregnancy due to the high prevalence of the virus in the country. Even though there have been at least a dozen confirmed cases in the U.S., there really is no need to panic. The CDC has reiterated the fact that thus far the cases in the U.S. have been brought in by citizens who have made trips to endemic parts of the world. There are no cases that have been linked to factors directly with in America. If you are worried about the dozen confirmed cases causing problems, do not worry, think about it if only a few people have Zika, the likelihood that a mosquito will find an infected person, take a blood meal, not die and go bite an uninfected person is extremely low.
So please do not be paranoid over every mosquito bite. It is most likely nothing to worry about.