No, the Zika virus is not the next zombie apocalypse, although you might think that because of the way people are responding to news of the outbreak. If you do not live or are not traveling to Cape Verde, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, The Pacific Islands, or South America you should be fine. Okay, not all of the countries in these regions are infected, but the CDC has warned travelers that the Zika Virus has been reported to be transmitted by mosquitoes in those regions. If you are traveling to those areas, use precautions to protect against mosquito bites.
What exactly is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus was discovered in Uganda in 1947 and the first human case was reported in 1952. There have been outbreaks of the virus primarily in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Africa because of the tropical climates. In 2015, a health alert was issued by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) because the virus was spreading, specifically a major outbreak in Brazil.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are joint pain, fever, and/or red eyes (conjunctivitis). Less common symptoms people have been known to experience include headache and muscle pain. Most people who contract the virus do not know they have the disease because it doesn’t often show symptoms.
Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to one week after you were bitten by a mosquito. The good news is, that once you have been bitten by the mosquito and become infected, you are most likely be immune to the virus in the future.
How will I get diagnosed?
If you do notice symptoms of the Zika virus and have recently traveled to a region where it is common, talk to your doctor. Tell them exactly what you are experiencing and what countries you have been to. The Zika virus can be detected by a blood test, so that may be ordered to confirm your suspicions.
Will I die?
Very rarely does anyone die from the Zika virus. Treatment normally includes drinking lots of fluids, taking Tylenol to reduce the fever, and resting. There is no vaccine for the virus, it just has to run its course.
What is with the Zika virus and pregnancy?
Pregnancy and being infected with the Zika virus is probably the main reason people are concerned. Since Brazil had reported the virus in May of 2015, they have also reported an increase in babies born with microcephaly. Microcephaly is when a baby’s head is smaller than normal. Oftentimes, the babies with smaller heads have inhibited brain growth. Health officials have not ruled out the link between the Zika virus and pregnancy, but they also want people to know this condition can also be caused by changes in the baby’s genes, infections during pregnancy, and a woman touching toxins while she is pregnant. More research is being done to answer the numerous questions involved with the Zika virus and pregnancy.
Is the United States involved?
Why yes, yes we are. In early April, the White House announced more than $500 million to fight the Zika virus. The money is leftover from the Ebola fight and is going to be used to prepare the United States in case the Zika virus hits our soil. The money will be invested in trying to find a vaccine to stop the virus as well as mosquito surveillance and control.
While the Zika virus is a serious disease, there is not cause for concern, yet. It has not hit the United States soil. Congress and U.S. health officials are researching and preparing in case it does reach us, so lets hope they find a cure before the mosquitoes make it here.