With the potential threat of the Zika Virus looming over the U.S., it's important that we all know the available details in order to best protect ourselves. As of today, Thursday January 28, 2016, the World Health Organization has announced that it will call an emergency meeting on February 1st to try and find ways to stop the spread.
What is the Zika virus?
The disease is passed along by a specific type of mosquito, called the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This is the same pesky little creature that has been the culprit of spreading dengue fever, and is found in many tropical and sup-tropical regions throughout the world. The virus infection is caused by the bite of the mosquito, and cannot be transmitted from human-to-human.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of the disease are mild, including fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Some infected people have no symptoms at all. In Brazil, there have been reports of the Zika Virus causing pregnant women to give birth to babies with severe birth defects. There has been no official statemtent on the risk of pregnant women and Zika virus, but this causal relationship is currently being investigated and is not being taken lightly.
Who is at risk?
The Center for Disease Control has issued a travel alert for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus has been reported. Sub tropical and tropical environments are at the highest risk. For a list of currently affected countries and regions, see this page.
How do I protect myself?
Health officials are predicting the virus to spread in the United States and its territories due to returning travelers. The most efficient way is to avoid mosquito bites all together. There are several ways to do this, but keep in mind that these methods will only reduce your chances of contracting the disease, not wipe them out all together. For now, these precautions apply only to those who are travelling to countries where Zika virus has been reported. However, using these methods to protect yourself are easy enough to be applied to everyday life.