Zika Situation in Early 2017
After ranking as the top health concern of 2016, the Zika virus has returned worldwide in early months of 2017, including the USA. According to the International SOS’s Zika News, three newest cases of Zika infections have been found in Singapore since 21st April, which leads to a total of 21 cases in this country in this year. In the USA, there has been a total of 10 cases in Texas and 30 cases in Florida since 1st January 2017.
This mosquito-borne illness was first detected in the Zika Forest in the central Africa in 1947. Nowadays it’s unable to be cured or prevented with a vaccine, which makes it extremely dangerous to people, especially pregnant women. To date, its global risk assessment and vigilance remains high.
How Does Zika Spread?
Through Mosquito Bites
Two mosquito species called Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus are the primary pathogens of Zika. These mosquitoes are active mostly during the day, but they can also bite people at night. They are the same pathogen of dengue and chikungunya viruses.
The females need to feed on blood to lay eggs. As they suck the blood of infected patients, they become infected themselves and have the likelihood of transmitting the virus to other people through bites. Although Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus usually inhabit in tropical or subtropical areas, they’re also found in the USA.
Here is the map estimating the potential range of them in the USA.
A man or a woman, who carries the Zika virus, can transmit the virus to his or her sexual partner, even if this infected person does not develop symptoms at the time. Scientists also found that the Zika virus stays in semen longer than in other body fluids, including vaginal discharge, urine and blood. Therefore, the infected men are more potentially dangerous than infected women.
In addition, keep in mind that whether the sex is vaginal, anal, oral or even the sharing of sex toys, there is no exception of safety.
From a Pregnant Woman to Her Fetus
There is a full range of evidence that a pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus during pregnancy and childbirth. This is what scientists call the mother-to-child transmission. Fortunately, there are no reports that a newborn can get Zika virus through breastfeeding.
Through Blood Transfusion
This transmission path is very likely but not surely confirmed. To date, there are no reports of getting Zika virus through blood transfusion transmission in the USA. However, in April 2016, two first cases in Brazil are detected. During the French Polynesian outbreak, the virus was found in few blood donors.
Why Is Zika Too Dangerous to Pregnant Women?
How Does It Affect the Mom’s Fetus?
Many studies have proven that a pregnant woman, who is already infected with Zika virus, even one without symptoms, can pass the virus to her developing fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Especially, this transmission can happen in all stages of pregnancy.
The problem will be worst in the first trimester of pregnancy when pregnant signs have not shown up clearly yet. That’s because many crucial developments of fetus take place during this period, including the starting developing structures (head, spine, arms and legs) and organs (heart, intestines and lungs) of the baby’s body.
As the virus crosses the placental barrier, it comes with dangerous side effects and appears to be associated with major grave outcomes, such as uteroplacental vascular insufficiency, fetal growth restriction, neurological system trauma and even fetal death.
How Does It Affect the Infant?
Babies whose moms are infected with Zika during pregnancy have great likelihood of developing birth defects. Among them, the most common and serious defect is microcephaly which is a severe neurological condition in which babies are born with a small head leading to a small brain.
Other serious birth defects include impaired growth, hearing loss, eye problems, Guillain-Barré syndrome and even stillbirth.
How Do You Know a Pregnant Woman Infected with Zika?
There is no evidence that pregnant women are more susceptible to getting Zika or suffering from more severe illness. So, everyone who is infected with Zika has the same symptoms. Many have mild symptoms, while others might not show anything. In fact, only 20 percent of patients end up exhibiting symptoms.
In general, common symptoms of Zika are low-grade fever, red rash, red eyes, headache, joint pain and muscle pain. These symptoms can last from two to seven days, and they often don’t show up right away. For this reason, many patients don’t realize that they have been infected and don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. Luckily, Zika rarely kills people.
If you want to see how a 19-week pregnant woman protects herself and her baby from Zika, you can take a look this video below.
What Should You Do If You’re Suspicious about Being Infected with Zika?
To date, there is no vaccine or specific medicine against Zika. Currently, the Themis Bioscience is testing one called MV-ZIKA-101 in 48 healthy volunteers to check the safety, immune response and optimal dose. However, it’s just a clinical trial like many before, and the ultimate version of the vaccine is predicted to take years under development.
Testing for Zika
To diagnose Zika, a doctor will first ask about any symptom as well as recent travels and sexual activities, in short, any path of transmission that Zika virus can pass from one person to others. After that, a blood, semen or urine test will be carried to confirm the Zika infection. It’s important to make sure you receive your Zika test results even if you are feeling better.
Treating the Symptoms
At present, there are no treatments for Zika. You can only treat its symptoms. Here is what you should know if you’re diagnosed with Zika:
- Get plenty of rest to help the body naturally combat the infection
- Drink adequate fluids (water, milk, smoothies) to avoid dehydration.
- Take medicines (acetaminophen, paracetamol) to relieve fever and pain.
- If you’re taking a medicine for another medical condition, consult your doctor before taking any extra medication.
- Don’t take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
How Do You Prevent Zika?
Since people have not found a vaccine to prevent Zika, keeping yourself and your family from mosquitoes is the only way to avoid Zika. Here are some tips for you to do that:
Use Insect Repellents
Choosing the right products of insect repellents is very important. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), EPA-registered insect repellents that have active ingredients, such as DEET, IR 3535, lemon eucalyptus, 2-undecanone, para-menthane-diol and picaridin, are safe and effective to use.
A study published in the Parasties and Vectors journal found no signs of negative side effect of DEET. Pregnant and nursing women can use it without any risk. On the other hand, repellents that contain citronella oil, peppermint oil, geranium oil or cedar oil are not recommended by the CDC.
No matter which insect repellents you use, you should always follow the instruction manual. You have to take a close look at the cautions that the company lists in the manual. You can also find brief instructions on the label. For examples:
- Apply insect repellents after sunscreen.
- Don’t use repellents on babies less than 2 months old.
- Don’t use lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol on babies less than 3 years old.
- Don’t apply repellent under clothes because it might not evaporate and gather on the fabric as a result. But you can apply it over clothes.
- Don’t apply repellent on cuts or wounds.
Removing Standing Water
Removing standing water is the key to make sure mosquitoes don’t have places to breed and lay eggs. Aedes mostly feed during the day and tend to fly into houses for shade, especially on sunny days when the temperature rises to about 50-60oF. Briefly, they live very close to us.
The greater the population of them in your living area, the greater the chance they spread disease. Just one tablespoon of water can become an ideal ground for mosquitoes to breed and produce up to 300 eggs. So, make sure you remove any item throughout and around the house that can collect water, such as flower pots, buckets, bottles or old tires.
If you have a pool, you don’t need to drain it. Just add a small amount of chlorine into the water to deter mosquitoes.
Stay in Places with Air-Conditioning or Window Screens
Instead of opening windows and doors, it’s sometimes necessary to close them and stay in places featured with electric fans, air conditioners or window screens. This way, you can keep mosquitoes from entering your house. Make sure there are no holes or gaps in the screens.
Sleep with a Mosquito Net
A mosquito net is designed to protect you from mosquito’s bites while sleeping. Also, make sure you install it in a proper way so that it provides the full coverage all the way around your bed. For an extra layer of protection, you can treat your net with permethrin.
Cover Your Skin with Clothes
It’s a shortcoming if you forget to protect your own body by covering as much of your skin as possible. Simply wear long pants, long-sleeves shirts, socks and closed-toe shoes. Also, don’t forget to cover your face and head with a face mask and a hat when you’re in most mosquito-infested areas. If needed, treat your clothes with permethrin for additional protection.
Use Protection When You Have Sex
If you’re a man, wear a condom every time you have sex. If you’re a woman, either wear a dental dam or remind your partner to wear a condom even if he seems healthy. Keep in mind that 80 percent of infected patients does not show symptoms of Zika. Also, remember that Zika virus can be transmitted through any sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, oral sex and even the sharing of sex toys.
Don’t travel to areas or countries with the high risk of Zika virus transmission if you don’t need to do that. If you already booked the ticket, and then the virus suddenly outbreak in where you plan to arrive, you might consider postponing the trip. In the USA, major airlines, including American, United, and Delta Airlines, allow qualified passengers to re-book their trips without cancellation fees. In case you must travel to an affected area, follow the prevention recommendations strictly.
For the world map of areas with risk of Zika, check here.
What Should You Do If You’re Caring for a Person with Zika?
Follow the following steps if you want to keep safe when contact with a Zika-infected person:
- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after providing care.
- Don’t touch any body’s fluid of the patient or surface with these fluids on it.
- Wash your hands and clothes (with detergent) immediately if they get any body’s fluid of the patient.
- Disinfectant the patient’s environment (bed, chair, etc.) every day using household cleaners.
To update all the information and newest news about Zika, you can check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website which is one of the best online resources for various diseases, including Zika. No matter what you do, you should always be aware of preventing you and your family from Zika. If you have any symptom related to Zika, you have to isolate yourself from other family’s members and see your doctor as soon as possible.
Do you want to help scientists find a treatment for the Zika virus? Check this video: