In the past several weeks, increased cases of Zika virus disease (Zika) have been reported in South and Central America, and to a limited degree in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territory, and the US Virgin Islands. Zika is a little known illness spread by a certain type of mosquito. Although most people who may be exposed to Zika virus will have only mild or no symptoms, there has been evidence linking Zika virus to negative effects on pregnancies in some cases, which has received widespread public attention. We understand that this news is concerning, especially to pregnant women and their families who may travel to or live in affected areas. Here are some answers to common questions about Zika.
What is Zika?
The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitos. About 1 in 5 people who get infected with Zika virus will show symptoms. Most of those who get sick experience only mild symptoms that last about a week. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes (conjunctivitis). It’s rare for someone infected with Zika to become seriously sick or die. Zika is not spread through routine direct person-to-person contact.
Zika and Pregnancy
While anyone can be infected with Zika, what makes it stand out from other mosquito-borne illnesses, is the effect it appears to have on pregnancy. We know that Zika can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby, and that infection during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects, such as a condition called microcephaly (when a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with babies of the same sex and age). Our understanding of the link between Zika and pregnancy is evolving.
Because of the possible risk to unborn babies, CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to areas with local Zika transmission. If you are pregnant and must travel to one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. As we learn more about this disease, our guidance may change based on new information important for the public to know.
How to Protect Yourself from Zika
Because there are currently no vaccines or treatment for Zika, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent mosquito bites. You can do this by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and treating your clothing and other items with permethrin. Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant as directed. You shouldn’t use insect repellant on babies younger than 2 months of age; instead, dress your baby in clothing that covers arms and legs and cover the crib, stroller, or baby carrier with mosquito netting.
If you’ve recently traveled to an area with Zika and develop a rash, joint pain, or red eyes, tell your doctor that you traveled to a country with Zika virus. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to dengue and chikungunya, special blood tests may be needed.
If you get sick with Zika, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and take medicines like acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain. Don’t take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You can also prevent others from getting sick by avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of illness following the same steps outlined above, because Zika virus can stay in the blood during the first week of infection.
Guillain-Barre on rise in 5 Latam countries, no proven link to Zika – WHO
Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:28am EST GENEVA | BY STEPHANIE NEBEHAY – reuters
A neurological disorder suspected of links to the mosquito-borne Zika virus is on the rise in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.
The rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, causes gradual weakness in the legs, arms and upper body and sometimes leads to total paralysis.
“In the context of the Zika virus outbreak, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela have reported an increase of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome),” the WHO said in a weekly report on Zika virus now circulating in 34 countries, including 26 in the Americas.
“The cause of the increase in GBS incidence observed in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Suriname remains unknown, especially as dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus have all been circulating simultaneously in the Americas,” it added.
Investigations continue to determine the cause, WHO said, noting that there was no laboratory confirmation of Zika virus in patients with GBS in Colombia and El Salvador.
Venezuela has reported 252 cases of Guillain-Barre occurring at the same time and place as Zika infections, it said. “Zika virus infection was confirmed for three of the GBS cases, including one fatal case.”
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that three people had died of complications linked to Zika virus and that suspected cases of Zika had risen to 5,221.
Even in the best of settings, 3 to 5 percent of Guillain-Barre patients die from complications, which can include paralysis of the muscles that control breathing, blood infection, lung clots or cardiac arrest, according to the WHO.
White House Response To The Zika Virus
The Zika virus is a disease spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito — the same type of mosquito that spreads other viruses like dengue and chikungunya.
While most people have no symptoms as all, Zika causes mild illness in some. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a link between Zika infection during pregnancy and serious birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes. We also know that there can be other serious neurological impacts in some people who are infected with Zika.
We are closely tracking and responding to outbreaks of this virus across the Americas. While we haven’t seen Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States to date, we have seen transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, in addition to cases reported in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
And we know that this particular mosquito lives in certain parts of the southern United States, and we now know that Zika can also spread in another type of mosquito that is present throughout much of the United States. So now is the time to prepare as the seasons change and weather gets warmer.
As President Obama said, we all have to remain vigilant when it comes to combating the spread of diseases like Zika. That’s why the President has called on Congress to provide emergency funding to combat this disease, including to:
- speed the development of a vaccine;
- allow people – especially pregnant women – to more easily get tested and get a prompt result; and
- ensure that states and communities – particularly those in the South that have experienced local outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya in the past – have the resources they need to fight the mosquito that carries this virus.
Congress needs to act now to ensure that we have the resources we need to take every step necessary to protect the American people from the Zika virus.
For more: https://www.whitehouse.gov/zika
Centers For Disease Control & Prevention – CDC.gov
- Mosquito Bite Prevention for the United States[PDF – 2 pages]
- Q&As: Zika and Pregnancy
- Travel Health Notices
- Microcephaly (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html)
- Interim Guidelines for Pregnant Women During a Zika Virus Outbreak
- 1/28/16 President Obama met with leaders of his health and national security teams to discuss the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses in the Americas as well as steps being taken to protect the American public
- 2/22/16 Mosquitoes and Malaria: New commitment to combating the scourge of malaria
- 2/22/16 Letter From The President — Zika Virus
WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency Committee on Zika
I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Committee met today by teleconference.
In assessing the level of threat, the 18 experts and advisers looked in particular at the strong association, in time and place, between infection with the Zika virus and a rise in detected cases of congenital malformations and neurological complications.
The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.
The experts also considered patterns of recent spread and the broad geographical distribution of mosquito species that can transmit the virus.
The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.
After a review of the evidence, the Committee advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to other parts of the world.
In their view, a coordinated international response is needed to minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread.
Members of the Committee agreed that the situation meets the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.