What You Should Know About the Zika Virus

July 13,2016

With the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio, the Zika virus has been in the news a lot. But, what is the Zika virus and where did this new illness originate? The virus is primarily transmitted by infected mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes mosquito. These same mosquitoes also are known carriers of yellow fever and dengue fever. Transmission of the Zika disease typically begins when a mosquito bites an infected person and passes it to other people it bites. Although the virus was first identified (Uganda) in 1947, previous outbreaks did not occur outside of Africa until nine years ago.

Symptoms of Zika Virus

People infected with the disease usually experience mild symptoms that only last a few days. Symptoms can include conjunctivitis, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, headaches and fever. These normally subside within a week. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, only 1 in 5 people that catch the virus will exhibit symptoms and very few of those will require medical attention or hospitalization. Most will only need to get extra rest, drink lots of fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease. For those living in warmer climates like Florida, wearing clothes that cover during peak hours and applying an insect repellent that contains DEET or IR3535 are recommended precautions. It is important to assist those who may not be able to protect themselves, such as the sick, elderly or very young. On July 7th, Florida health officials reported the biggest single-day jump in infected individuals when 11 new cases were reported. 

Zika Can Cause Birth Defects

Since Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects, pregnant women should avoid areas during an outbreak. Unborn babies infected with Zika have shown an increased chance of having an abnormally small head. Women who are trying to get pregnant should consult their physician before traveling outside the United States. Since the virus can be spread by men to their sex partners, women whose male partners have traveled to or live in an area with Zika, should practice safe sex by correctly using condoms.. 

If you or a loved one experiences flu-like symptoms, it is a good idea to contact a healthcare provider. A diagnosis of Zika virus infection can only be confirmed through laboratory tests on blood or other body fluids. At PrimeMed locations in both Orange Park and Jacksonville, our goal is to provide same day appointments for new patients. To schedule your visit, call 904-269-0500.