It is always unnerving when we hear about new illnesses that have been carried inside our borders. This one, in particular, has expecting mothers on alert. That is because this Zika virus brings damaging effects to the fetus. I had the pleasure of obtaining some tips from Dr. Antonio Crespo so that you can all be a bit more educated about this virus in the spotlight right now.
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes which are also able to transmit Dengue fever and Chikungunya fever. It had previously been reported in Africa, Asia and Islands in the Pacific. In May of 2015 it was identified in Brazil and since then it has been spreading throughout the Americas including recent cases in Puerto Rico. Local transmission has not been documented in the continental United Sates but cases in travelers visiting or returning from countries with viral activity have been identified including cases in Florida. The potential of transmission in certain areas of the United States including Florida exist since the vector is present.About one in 5 people infected with the virus will develop symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, diffuse rash, joint pain and red eyes. The disease is usually mild and can last few days up to a week. There is no specific treatment. Acetaminophen use is preferred to control symptoms.A possible association between Zika virus and severe birth defects such as microcephaly and fetal losses has been reported. This was initially noted by the Ministry of Health from Brazil. The virus has been identified in tissues from infants born with such defects and from their mothers.Based on these findings the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to pregnant women and women who desire to become pregnant to avoid if possible traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If travel is still necessary precautions should be taken to avoid mosquito bites, which include measures such as the use of long-sleeved shirts and long pants, the use of mosquito repellants with proven efficacy and choosing hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors.If symptoms develop during or after returning from the trip it is recommended to notify their physicians immediately. The physician will contact the health authorities and proceed with the proper testing if indicated.Antonio Crespo, MDChief Quality OfficerDr. P. Phillips Hospital, part of Orlando HealthLead PhysicianOrlando Health Infectious Diseases