The Zika Virus: Risks and Prevention

Posted on SEPTEMBER 07, 2016

ER Katy 24 Hour Emergency Care

A Guide To What You Should Know About The Zika Virus

It can be a bit scary and confusing to hear about an incurable disease with potentially serious birth defects making it’s way around the globe. The World Health Organization has declared Zika a global public health emergency. As the number of reported Zika Virus cases continue to grow, we at ER Katy want to provide our patients information on how to protect themselves and loved ones from this growing health concern. Here are few things that you should know about the Zika Virus.  

What is Zika?

Zika is a mosquito-borne infection. It can often times be confused with the flu. It presents with mostly mild symptoms. These symptoms can last anywhere from 2-7 days. It is estimated that up to 80% of people infected with Zika never even display symptoms. Symptoms include: mild fever, headaches, joint pain, skin rash, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain. At this time there is no known cure or vaccines for Zika.  

How is Zika transmitted?

Zika is transmitted by three different methods. The most common way it is transmitted is through a mosquito bite. Blood transfusions and sexual contact are the other two ways that it can be spread.  

Where is Zika?

Zika cases have been reported in Africa, South and Central America, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. The US has also seen growing cases of the virus as well, with Miami and Puerto Rico being areas of particular concern. Here is a link to the US State Department’s health travel advisories. It is suggested that before you travel, to consult the list and take necessary precautions.    At the time of this article there are 2,517 cases of the Zika virus in the US. Of those 2,487 cases are people who travelled internationally to areas of concern.   Within Texas, there are currently 160 cases and you can visit this resource, which is updated daily, to see the number of cases by county.   For current information on the number of Zika cases reported by region here is the link to the CDC data on outbreaks.  

Serious side effects of Zika?

Research has found a link between the Zika virus and a higher instance of Guillian-Barre Syndrome in adults. Guillian-Barre Syndrome is a condition where the immune system attacks nerves following an infection, resulting in muscle weakness and paralysis. For more information on this condition click here. Pregnant women are of great concern when it comes to Zika because it has been linked to serious birth defects, such as microcephaly. At this time the likelihood of this connection is undetermined. Because of this concern, the State of Texas is providing pregnant women on Medicaid with access to free EPA approved bug repellent. For more information on this initiative visit this link.    

How to prevent Zika?

Fortunately there are many things that you can do to protect yourself from contracting this virus. Prevention is key. New technologies are available which provide effective protection without reliance on sprays. These solutions can be expensive in terms of recurring supply costs but they do work well and provide an alternative to skin based chemical applications.    Traditional methods can be more feasible. Be diligent with insect repellant to prevent mosquito bites. Make sure it is approved by the EPA. For more information on which bug repellent you should be using click here.   Full-length clothing, and clothing designed with InsectShield, will help limit skin exposure, reducing your risk of bites.   Check travel advisories before travel and take necessary precautions when travelling to areas of concern, such as delaying travel or the use of mosquito netting and air conditioning.   Drain, treat or cover areas of standing water whenever possible. "Mosquito Dunks" are environmentally and animal friendly for areas with standing water (including bird baths).   Finally, avoid sexual contact with people who have recently travelled to cautioned areas or have an increased risk for the virus. There are Zika cases in Texas that have been contracted via sexual contact with persons infected in Florida.  

What if I suspect Zika?

If you suspect that you have contracted Zika, it is very important to contact your health care provider immediately. A simple blood test can determine if you are infected and a treatment plan can be established.   The health of you and your family are of utmost importance to us here at ERKaty. We are happy to address any further concerns or questions about the Zika virus or any other health concerns you might have. We are open 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Contact us at 281-395-9900 or visit ER Katy.com    

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