We were warned it was going to happen. We witnessed it emerging in other countries. And now, unfortunately, it has reared its ugly head right here in New York City. It was announced last Friday that the first baby infected with the dreaded Zika virus has been born in New York City. The accompanying concern for this poor baby as well as what’s in store for us is now front-and-center stage.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya virus. A mosquito bites an infected person and then passes those viruses to other people it bites. On occasion, according Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Zika virus can be transmitted through intimate physical contact.
And, unfortunately, Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects, especially microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same gender and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly in utero or after birth, and they often have developmental issues. Generally, there’s no treatment for microcephaly, but early intervention with therapies such as speech and occupational therapies may help enhance the development of a child with microcephaly.
Most people infected with the Zika virus don’t have symptoms or the symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes — may be mild. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Symptoms can last for several days to a week.
If you have travelled to an area where Zika might be present and are concerned that you have have Zika-like symptoms, contact your physician immediately. Blood and urine tests can confirm whether you have the Zika virus. Regrettably, at present, there is no antidote medicine for Zika. There is neither a vaccine although that’s being worked on.
We can help to prevent Zika. Steps include using an EPA-certified insect repellent; wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and covering legs; and removing standing water around your home. Also, stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
Further, consult http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information. This CDC website has travel maps alerting one to where Zika is present.
We live in a world where everything is instantaneous and we cross continents and oceans in a flash. So, too, can mosquitoes and what have you. But we need to stay ahead of the curve and prevention is the way to go.