What you need to know about Zika Virus
Zika virus spreads to people through the bite of an infected mosquito and, while it may be too cold in south central Nebraska to be concerned about mosquitoes this time of year, mosquitoes are active in warmer climates where Nebraskans may plan to travel.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
However, an outbreak of Zika virus disease in Brazil has been associated with more than 3,000 reports of pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects, such as microcephaly (abnormally small-sized heads) and other poor health outcomes.
Unfortunately, there are currently no vaccines or specific treatment for Zika Virus. For this reason, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to take precautions.
Currently, there are 22 countries where Zika virus is known to be present. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert for people traveling to South and Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Cape Verde and Samoa due to ongoing transmission of Zika virus. Travelers should check for updates to see if their destinations are included in the travel alert (www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/).
Although there is currently no documented transmission of the disease by mosquitoes in the US, there have been confirmed cases among US citizens (including Nebraskans) traveling from affected regions. In addition, there is new evidence that the virus can be transmitted from one infected person to another through bodily fluids (semen, saliva, etc.)
It is always a good idea to check the CDC’s travel advisory page before traveling to get the latest information about vaccination, travel tips and any health advisories that may be in effect for your destination.
If you have traveled to any of the affected countries and you are currently experiencing symptoms, seek the advice of your healthcare provider. Testing can be done to determine if you may have been infected with Zika or another mosquito-borne illness such as Dengue, Chikungunya, or West Nile.
The best prevention measure against Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses, is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes tend to breed in standing water and often feed during the dusk to dawn hours. Travelers should use insect repellent and wear protective clothing. For tips on how travelers can avoid mosquito bites see:www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_travelers.pdf.
Michele Bever, PhD, MPH
Executive Director for South Heartland District Health Department
Phyllis Salyards, MD
South Heartland Board of Health
Michele M. Bever, PhD, MPH
South Heartland District Health Department
606 N. Minnesota Ave, Suite 2
Hastings, NE 68901