Traveling with children this President’s week? Here’s what you need to know about the Zika virus:
Zika is an infectious virus that’s spread through mosquito bites. Prior to 2015, cases of Zika virus were exclusive to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. However, in May 2015 the first case of Zika virus was reported in Brazil and the virus has spread north since then. As of Feburary 3, 2016 there have been no reported cases of locally acquired Zika virus infections within the mainland United States. Though, outside mainland U.S.A., Zika virus infections have been reported in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Central and South America, leading the CDC to issue a travel notice for people heading to those areas.
Since Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites, the best form of prevention is to stay out of mosquito dense areas. For those traveling to Central and South America, follow these guidelines posted by the CDC:
So let’s say you’re in an area where cases of Zika have been reported and a mosquito has bitten you. Chances are that mosquito was not a carrier of Zika, and if it was, there’s still only a 20% chance you’ll fall ill. However, if you have contracted Zika you’ll more than likely be fine in a week or two. For that week that you are ill with Zika virus you might experience:
Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
If you’ve been to one of the countries listed below and are experiencing the symptoms listed above: go see your doctor! This blog is for informative purposes only, just because you have a fever and a headache and have been to one of the places where Zika has been reported—that doesn’t necessarily mean you have Zika!! You might, but go see your doctor to be sure.
If You Became Pregnant While on a Trip to an Endemic Area:
Go to your doctor and get tested for Zika virus. If you live in New York, the state government provides free Zika virus tests.
Currently there is no vaccine or anti-biotic to treat Zika. If by the very off-chance you do contract Zika:
Get a lot of rest
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and pain
DO NOT take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
If you’re taking other medicine, contact your doctor before taking any additional medicine
For those of us in the U.S. not traveling to the countries where Zika cases have been reported—there’s nothing to worry about. Not until mosquito season that is. However, if you plan on traveling to Central or South America, follow the CDC’s guidelines on mosquito bite prevention. As mentioned above, the odds of becoming ill from Zika are very slim.
If you’re planning to become pregnant while on a trip to an endemic area you should be more careful as Zika has been linked to microcephaly. When patients ask if they should cancel their trip I tell them it’s a judgment-call; from what we know: the chances of contracting Zika are slim, but at the same time contracting Zika at the time of conception may lead to issues. It’s up to you to decide how much risk you are comfortable with.
***Do not take anything written above as individual medical adivsement. Our blog is purely for factual purposes. If you believe you have contracted Zika, or are experiencing symptoms linked to Zika, contact your doctor.