11 facts about the Zika virus
Information on pootentially dangerous virus that may cause microcephaly in children
Zika has gained attention from not only the CDC, but the World Health Organization.
Leaders from the Who called Zika a “public health emergency of international concern,” earlier in the week, because how fast the virus is spreading and the continued investigation into its link to babies born with abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Experts are also looking into the possible connection between Zika and a neurological condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis.
No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bit mostly during daytime.
Click here for prevention information from the CDC.
Here's what we know from about the Zika virus from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention:
- The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the same mosqutoes that spread dengue and chikungunya.
- The mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people and live indoors and outdoors near people. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes then spread the virus to other people through bites.
- A mother already infected with the Zika virus can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare.
- The CDC has not found any reports of the Zika virus spread through breastfeeding.
- The CDC believes the virus could spread through blood transfusion. At this time, there have been no reports of this happening.
- There has been one case of the virus spread through sexual contact.
- 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 and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
- However, the Zika virus can be dangerous, especially to babies. Doctors are studying the link to the virus and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes abnormally small heads and brains.
- There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.
- The CDC recommends “that all people, especially pregnant women, who are traveling to Brazil and other areas in Latin America, should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus and other mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and chikungunya.”
- The CDC asks that travelers protect themselves from mosquitoes by using insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
“There is still a lot to learn about Zika virus and the potential risk to cause this particular birth defect,” said Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s. “However, because it could spread to the United States, it is important that doctors and patients are aware of it. Like other diseases that were once thought to be isolated to tropical areas like chikungunya, many patients and doctors forget to think about them.”
About the source
Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D. is the medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s, which offers care for children and teens with diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses. Our team provides a broad range of services including diagnosis, inpatient and outpatient consultations, immune deficiency evaluations and treatment of recurring infections.