Zika virus has become more prevalent throughout the world, as well as in the U.S., with the CDC reporting 544 cases in the country as of May 2016.
Those cases were related to travel, with Florida and New York having the highest concentrations in the country.
As it’s becoming more common to see patients with the Zika virus, doctors and healthcare providers are being required to learn about the relatively unknown disease very quickly.
Below are five fast, essential facts about Zika that can serve as a very brief overview for people in the healthcare industry:
Zika is transmitted through the bite of a certain mosquito species that’s infected, the Aedes species.
These particular types of mosquitos are typically found where standing water is present, and they are considered to be aggressive biters. Zika was first discovered in Uganda in the 1940s, and until recently the outbreaks were contained mostly in Asia and Africa.
This can be a difficult disease to diagnose because most people who have it don’t end up knowing they do. There aren’t many symptoms, and when symptoms do show up, they can seem like what happens with many other common viruses and infections.
For example, some of the symptoms are fever, joint pain, and headache. For many people, the symptoms are mild, and can last anywhere from a few days to a week.
If someone is suspected of having ZIka or if they have traveled to regions it’s most widespread, the testing is done through gathering specimen samples, which can be sent to the CDC or state and local health departments. When cases are discovered, the CDC requests healthcare providers report them, along with likely cases to their organization.
This is so that the possibility of local transmission can be lessened. Of course, care providers should be cautious when handling laboratory samples for patients suspected of having Zika virus, as well as with their handling of associated medical waste.
- Zika and Pregnancy
While Zika itself is widely considered to be a relatively mild disease, this isn’t the case for pregnant women. It’s been discovered Zika can cause fetal microcephaly and other severe neurological abnormalities in the fetuses of pregnant women if they become infected.
Some of the birth defects potentially linked to ZIka passed from mother to fetus include hearing loss, eye problems, growth problems and miscarriage.
There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for Zika. The best recommendation to prevent its spread is to be cautious when traveling, particularly if pregnant, and to take steps to reduce mosquito breeding around your home, such as eliminating containers with standing water.
People are also advised to wear long pants and shirts if they’re traveling to a place Zika is present.