Should we be afraid of Zika?
U.S. public health leaders call threat ‘scarier than we initially thought’
At a White House briefing on April 11, leading U.S. health officials raised concerns about the spread of Zika virus, including the threat of it coming to this country.
“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s knows that this news conference will increase the fear many already feel about Zika, but she points to a few facts to calm our nerves or at least let us take precautions to be safe:
- Local transmission of the Zika virus from a mosquito hasn’t been documented in the United States. Zika virus has been reported in travelers returning to the U.S.
- Pregnant women should consider not traveling to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Women who are trying to become pregnant should consult with their doctor.
- Zika can be sexually transmitted. Women who are pregnant should not have sex with their partner if he has Zika. It is unknown how long the virus is present in semen.
- The virus has been linked to the Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis.
The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya.
Those mosquitoes have been in the states for years, but we have not seen a massive outbreak in this country.
Dr. Whitworth said the reason why those mosquito-borne illnesses have not spread as much in this country may be as simple as improved mosquito vector control and air conditioning.
With more air conditioned homes, people stay inside more and don’t sleep with the windows open or go outside as much. The other key may be the measures taken to prevent mosquito bites, such as wearing insect repellant and sprays.
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.