Zika virus is a disease that is transmitted through mosquito bites. It can also be sexually transmitted or passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Zika was first discovered in 1947 and was named after the Zika forest where it was found in Uganda, Africa. Outbreaks of Zika have been reported in Mexico, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. From January through April of 2017 over 5,000 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States. Most of these cases are from travelers returning from affected areas, but local mosquito-born transmission has occurred in areas of Florida and Texas.
Most people infected with Zika virus have no symptoms at all. If a person does have symptoms they are generally mild and include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. Symptoms generally last several days to a week, and then resolve. In rare cases Zika virus is associated with a serious and reversible condition of the nervous system called Guillain-Barre syndrome. The great danger of Zika virus is in pregnant women. Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and is linked to severe birth defects of the brain.
At present there is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection. Prevention strategies are targeted at insect precautions such as wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants. Clothing can be treated with permethrin to repel insects, and repellants such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus should be used on any exposed skin while in Zika areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that pregnant women do not travel to an area where there is a risk of Zika virus infection. At Arcadia Physician’s Travel Clinic we are continually reviewing the latest data on Zika transmission, and will provide you with the information you need to travel safely.
Here is a link to the CDC website that provides more information on Zika virus.