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April 4, 2016
You’ve seen it in the news, but what exactly is the Zika virus? The virus spread to the United States from South America, where its potential for birth defects alarmed residents. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 346 cases of the Zika virus in the United States, all of which people acquired through travel. However, some U.S. territories have seen locally transmitted cases.
First found in Uganda in 1947, the virus spread from its origins in Central Africa and Southeast Asia to the South Pacific in 2007. It eventually made its way to South America in 2014. From South America, travelers brought the virus to the United States.
Certain regions of the U.S. are more at risk for the virus. The Zika virus is only transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito species, most often found in southern states and the mid-Atlantic, respectively. As a result, the West Coast is at less risk for infection.
However, everyone is potentially at risk, as the virus has the ability to spread rapidly. Mosquitoes can transmit the virus to humans, and infected humans can also pass the virus to mosquitoes. There have even been seven cases in the U.S. where the virus was transmitted sexually, according to the CDC.Infected pregnant women are at heightened risk to give birth to babies with premature head and brain development. Thirty-two cases of pregnant women with Zika virus in the United States have been reported to the CDC. Researchers are still exploring this scary connection between birth defects and the virus.
Virus symptoms include a mild headache, a maculopapular rash on the body, fever, body aches, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dizziness. The symptoms typically follow that pattern with the headache arriving first, then the rash, and finally fever and negative effects on bodily functions.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention, especially people who have traveled to South America or an area of the country where Zika virus has been diagnosed. The treatment for Zika virus is sleep and acetaminophen to calm the symptoms. If diagnosed with the virus, infected people should also drink a lot of water. Hydration is key.
Researchers are working to learn more about the virus and how it spreads. The best thing you can do to help protect yourself from Zika virus is to be observant. Alert yourself to new mosquito populations in and around your home and know the dangers of the virus.
Keep safe by doing what you’re doing right now. Educate your family and the people around you so they know the symptoms. This will help them to seek medical care sooner rather than later.
It’s also important that people understand the mosquito populations in their area and work to prevent mosquitoes from entering their homes. Mosquitoes like stagnant water and can get into your home through open windows without screening.
For more tips on staying mosquito-free this summer, check out our blog post.