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An update on Zika

Published on February 19, 2016

An update on Zika

Thomas M. Math, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist
CentraCare Clinic - River Campus Infectious Diseases

The World Health Organization has declared Zika to be a global health emergency.At the beginning of February, the World Health Organization declared Zika to be a global health emergency. There have been reports of travelers coming back to the mainland United States with Zika. But there has not been a case where someone contracted the illness within the United States.

As spring break travel begins and summer vacations are being planned, more Minnesotans will soon be traveling to places where the Zika virus is present and having to familiarize themselves with the condition.

To educate the public about Zika, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) has provided the following information detailing what we know and what we don’t know about the condition.

Pregnancy and Zika

What We Know:

  • Zika can be spread from a mother to an unborn baby during pregnancy. Having Zika during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects in babies.
  • Women who are pregnant (or trying to become pregnant) should consider delaying travel to areas where the Zika virus is present.
  • Pregnant women who must travel to areas where Zika is present should consult with their healthcare provider and strictly avoid mosquito bites during their trip.
  • Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that Zika poses a risk to future pregnancies. The virus is only in someone’s blood for a few days or a week. Once Zika is cleared from her body, a woman could get pregnant and be feel safe her baby will not be affected by the illness.

What We Don't Know

  • If a mother travels to a place and is bit by a mosquito carrying Zika, how likely she is to get Zika.
  • We also do not know how likely the baby will have a birth defect as a result.

Mosquitoes and Zika

What We Know:

  • The mosquitoes that spread Zika are different from those that live in Minnesota.
  • The mosquitoes that spread Zika are found throughout the tropics (including some areas of the United States). Over time, it is likely Zika will spread to other tropical locations.
  • These mosquitoes prefer to bite during the day. But they can bite at night.
  • The mosquitoes that carry Zika also carry the viruses for dengue fever and chikungunya.

Where Zika Is Currently Present

Please review the following links from the CDC on where there have been cases of Zika and where the condition is present:

Zika Symptoms and Treatment

What We Know:

  • It is estimated that only 1 in 5 with Zika becomes ill with flu-like symptoms. These include red eyes, fever, rash, and joint pain.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Hospitalizations and deaths to Zika are rare.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine to treat Zika.

Zika and Sex

What We Know:

  • There is evidence that Zika can be distributed sexually by a man. Currently, there have been two cases of likely sexual transmission.

What We Don’t Know:

  • How long the Zika virus is present in semen.
  • If men with Zika but don’t develop symptoms have the virus in their semen and if they can transmit it through sex.
  • If a woman can transmit the Zika virus sexually.

Zika and Guillain-Barré

What We Know:

  • Guillain-Barré is a rare form of paralysis. The Brazil Ministry of Health has reported that an increased number of people who have been infected with Zika also have Guillan-Barré.

What We Don’t Know:

  • If there is a connection between Zika and Guillain-Barré. The CDC is working with Brazil to determine if there is a link between the two conditions.

More Resources From the CDC

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About the Author

Dr. Thomas Math

Thomas Math, M.D.
Infectious Disease
CentraCare Clinic - River Campus
Learn more about Dr. Math

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