Zika virus: A spring break souvenir
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said, “The Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.”
The CDC also noted that after being exposed to the virus, “People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected.”
Currently the virus has been found prevalent in over 30 countries. Some of those countries are common vacation spots students tend to travel to during reading week, such as Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and many more.
So what does this mean for you? The Zika virus has mainly been found to cause microcephaly in newborn babies. This means that the child’s body has formed properly, but their head did not fully develop, making it much smaller than normal.
Side effects from this birth defect are things such as seizures, developmental delay, feeding problems, hearing loss and vision problems.
For most college students, having a child is not currently high on their priority list, so passing this on to a child is not a concern for most. However, New York Times noted that, “El Salvador urged women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 to avoid babies suffering birth defects linked to the Zika virus.”
That means that for the next two years after potentially being exposed to the virus, the country is suggesting that women do not even try to conceive as they may be at a higher risk of having a child with birth defects. Since there is little research about how long the virus is transmittable to a fetus and there is currently no vaccine, it is suggested that women living in or travelling to some of the various areas hold off on trying to conceive for a while.
It is important to keep in mind that the virus is not only transmitted through mosquitos or from a mother to a child. A person can spread it to another person through any form of sexual intercourse. Currently it is unknown how long the virus is active in the body and potentially able to be transmitted to another person, so the best way to prevent transmission during sexual activity is to wear a condom.
The most effective way to avoid contracting this virus is to stay away from the countries in which the virus is currently active.
If you decide to travel anyway, while there you should do what you can to avoid getting bit by a mosquito.
If you have already returned from a trip, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may arise.
The CDC stated, “About one in five people infected with Zika virus become ill. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.”
In addition to this, a person may experience muscle pain and headaches. Any symptoms will likely be present within about a week of exposure to the virus. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a trip or have been exposed to someone who may have contracted the virus, speak to your health care provider.
In the meantime, the CDC suggested treating the symptoms by getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. This virus is relatively new and not much is known about it, so the more you can do to prevent contracting it, the better.