Zika Viruses..and the Mosquitoes That Love Them
Written by: Dr. Jake Brayboy
North Carolina is a naturally beautiful state! Mountains and rocky rivers to our west, sprawling sandy beaches to our east, and lush green forests in between. Along with our diverse terrain comes an equally diverse ecosystem of insects. One of more infamous being mosquitoes. With news about the Zika virus everywhere I wanted to take a moment to explain more about this virus and how you can protect you and your family against it.
Zika is a virus that can be spread to humans by mosquitoes. Once a human is infected with Zika it can be spread in only 2 ways: from an infected mother to her unborn baby and through sex with an infected partner. It is thought that it can be spread by receiving infected blood through a blood transfusion but this has yet to be confirmed. There have been no reports of spreading it through breastfeeding so don’t stop breastfeeding over concerns of Zika!
Many people with Zika won’t have symptoms, or have mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pains, muscles pains, headaches, and red eyes (called conjunctivitis). Again, usually the symptoms are mild and last several days to a week. It is important to note that people very rarely die of Zika.
So when do you need to come in and visit an Avance Care clinic? If you have symptoms such as the ones listed above AND you have visited an area with Zika, call our clinic for an appointment to be seen. For a list of areas with Zika visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html. In the United States, Florida has the most cases of Zika, particularly in the Miami area.
Diagnosis is based on your symptoms, travel history, and through lab testing of blood and urine. Here at Avance, we would take a detailed travel history, review your symptoms, and do a physical exam. If we suspect that you have Zika then we would coordinate testing with the local health department. The CDC has requested that Avance contacts the local or state healthcare department for testing. Therefore, we don’t do laboratory testing here at Avance.
When you are diagnosed with Zika, then what? Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for Zika. Here at Avance, we would recommend treating your symptoms to help you feel more comfortable. For example, if you have pain or a fever then we would recommend acetaminophen (ex. Tylenol). We would recommend lots of rest and plenty of fluids. Research is ongoing about Zika treatments.
The best way to avoid getting Zika is to avoid mosquito bites. Several things can be done to avoid mosquito bites, including insect repellant (ex. Off, Cutter and Repel), wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, use screens on windows and doors, and use air-conditioning when available. Careful planning of your travel is important as well. If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant then avoid traveling to areas with Zika (see the link above). Practicing safe sex with condom use will decrease your chances of receiving or spreading Zika through sex.
Though Zika is scary, it is very rare in North Carolina. To date, 52 cases have been confirmed with a large majority of these being due to people who got the virus from traveling elsewhere. Here at Avance, we take your health seriously so feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you have about Zika. North Carolina is an amazing state and we want to help keep you and your family healthy and happy so you can explore all the beauty our state has to offer.