Since women’s health is one of my passions, and because many people are not aware of the risks of the Zika virus, I have decided to provide some facts about Zika so you can be more knowledgeable on this subject and to help keep your family safe.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus spreads to people mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person that already has Zika. From that point, the mosquito can infect more people with the virus by biting them. Additionally, the virus can be spread through blood transfusions (not confirmed, but likely), from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy, and through intercourse with an infected male.  Zika outbreaks are happening in all parts of the world, including the United States.  It’s often difficult to determine the specific areas where the virus is spreading.

The most common symptoms of Zika infection are fever, joint pain, rash, red eyes, headache, and muscle pain. Symptoms can last for up to a week. And, once a person has been infected with the Zika virus, they are less prone to future infections.

The Zika infection is especially risky for women who are pregnant. This infection can cause defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and slow growth of the fetus. Additionally, it can cause a serious birth defect of the baby’s brain called microcephaly. This microcephaly, or abnormal smallness of the head, is associated with incomplete brain development. Children with this condition often have developmental issues.

At present, there is no vaccine to fight off the Zika virus, but there are some ways you can protect you and your family from mosquito bites. 1) wear long clothing to cover as much exposed skin as possible; 2) control mosquitos inside your home by keeping doors and windows closed and with screens; 3) control mosquitos outside your home by having pest control services spray your yard and surrounding areas with insect repellents; 4) treat your clothing with permethrin; 5) use mosquito netting to cover babies and sleep under a mosquito bed net if screened rooms are not available or if you are sleeping outdoors; 6) use EPA-registered insect repellents and follow the product label instructions; and 7) present sexual transmission of the Zika virus by practicing abstinence and by using condoms.

So, what do you do if you have Zika? Since there is no medicine to treat the virus, it is important to treat the symptoms: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, take acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever, and follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of illness, to help avoid transmission to others. It is essential to stay up-to-date on current information regarding the Zika virus. Be sure to visit the CDC health website for the most recent travel information, at http://www.cdc.gov/zika.


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