Zika Virus Explained
It’s summertime, and the urge to get outside and have some fun in the sun is just about impossible to resist. But there’s something serious to keep in mind once the sun goes down. That’s because dusk is when mosquitoes start to swarm, and since those annoying critters can spread the dreaded Zika virus, it’s more important than ever to protect your family and small children from bites.
Here are the big things to know about Zika, and what a danger it can pose.
What is Zika virus?
Zika is related to yellow fever and dengue fever, but by itself it’s not fatal to adults and most children. The real threat comes when a pregnant woman gets infected, and the virus is passed to her child. Congenital Zika virus can inflict a long list of serious and potentially fatal birth defects, the most severe of which (microcephaly) causes the baby’s head to not grow to full size.
How does Zika virus spread?
Zika is spread most often by mosquito bites but can also spread from an infected mother to her infant, through blood transfusions and through sexual activity. Unlike colds or flu virus, Zika is not airborne and can’t pass from close contact between people at work or school.
What are the symptoms of Zika Virus?
Zika is a “quiet” virus that has no noticeable affects in most adults who become infected. That’s a problem, as someone can be a carrier of Zika without even knowing it. About 20 percent of adult Zika carriers will have mild symptoms like fever, rash and joint pain that pass quickly.
For infants the problem is far worse. In addition to the “shrunken head” syndrome, babies who contract Zika before birth can have other severe malformations of the head, a variety of neurological conditions and ocular abnormalities.
Is Zika Virus a threat in Austin, Texas?
While Zika is rampant in parts of Africa and Central America and there have been reports of a few hundred cases of Zika being spread within the U.S., including in Texas, it’s not considered a major concern in the Lone Star State yet. The city of Austin has set up an informational page concerning Zika in Austin.
How can I protect myself and my family from Zika Virus?
The easiest way is to steer clear of mosquitoes since they’re the big villain when it comes to Zika’s spread. Take the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside.
- Use trusted insect repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.
- Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
Presently, Zika is not a major concern for folks in Austin, but if you’re planning a trip out of the country, be sure to consult the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s map of areas with active Zika transmission to know your risk. If you or your spouse have recently traveled to a Zika-endemic area, there are specific criteria that must be met in order to be tested (criteria from the Travis County Health Department). If you are concerned about that, have a Remedy provider see you and we can discuss testing options with you.
Or if you’re not worried about Zika, but you’re feeling under the weather this summer, schedule an appointment with Remedy and our doctors will meet you where you are – even by the pool.