Zika Virus: What You Need To Know

mosquito-dengueAs residents of Wisconsin are preparing for Spring Break, they may want to be cautious of where they travel this year, especially if they are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.

Zika virus is a virus that most commonly comes from the bite of a certain type of mosquito which has been seen in high numbers in most of the Caribbean and the northeastern parts of South America.

Only about 20% of people with Zika virus feel sick, so they may not know they have the virus in their body. When people with the virus do get sick, the symptoms are mostly mild and include: fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscles pain, and headache. If a person gets sick, it will happen anywhere from a few days to a week after coming into contact with the virus. Although Zika virus may not be harmful to the person who gets ill, it may have serious side effects on the developing baby, if a woman who is pregnant is infected with the Zika virus.

At this time, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) has not confirmed the link between Zika virus and birth defects, but they have noted there is a strong chance that Zika virus is the cause of the high number of recent birth defects seen in areas where Zika virus is common. The CDC is continuing to study Zika virus.

In addition to spreading through the bite of an infected mosquito, Zika virus is also spread through sexual contact. For men that have traveled to areas where Zika virus is common, they should avoid sexual contact with any pregnant partners or use a condom with any sexual contact until their partner is no longer pregnant. Women traveling to areas where Zika virus is present are encouraged to avoid becoming pregnant until after travel. If women are currently pregnant, they should consider not traveling to these areas until no longer pregnant.

“This is a scary virus,” notes Kristi Krombholz, disease investigation nurse at Lincoln County Health Department, “with no treatment or vaccine for Zika virus at this time, our only way of protecting ourselves is through prevention: preventing traveling to areas where there is Zika virus, preventing mosquito bites if travel is necessary, and preventing the spread of Zika virus to pregnant women.”

If you have traveled to an area that has Zika virus in the past 2 weeks and feel ill, or you traveled while pregnant, contact your medical provider for follow up. For more information on Zika virus, where it is found, and travel recommendations see the CDC’s website www.cdc.gov/zika or call the Lincoln County Health Department at 715-536-0307 and ask to speak with Kristi Krombholz RN.

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