Zika Virus – What You Need To Know
It’s wintertime, and heading down South is on many people’s minds right now.
With the dreaded Zika Virus prevalent in the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, many of my patients and friends are debating cancelling their trips. Should you panic, I don’t think so.
Here is what you need to know in a nutshell.
- Only 1/5 of people infected will have symptoms
- The incubation period (time from infection till symptoms) is a few days to a week
- Symptoms are typically mild and only last a few days
- Zika can be found in the blood of an infected person for a few days
- Few people with infection require hospitalization and death is RARE.
- The highest rates of Zika infection at this time are in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Mexico.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?
- Joint pain
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
- Muscle pain
How do we make a diagnosis of Zika?
The symptoms of Zika virus are similar to other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue and chikumgunya. See your doctor if you develop symptoms and have recently visited an area with Zika. Blood tests looking for antibodies can be done.
Is there any treatment?
Treatment for Zika virus is SYMPTOMATIC only. There is no specific treatment, and most cases are mild anyway.
Fever and pain medicine like Acetaminophen and Paracetamol are usually enough.
Why are pregnant women more at risk?
Infection in pregnant women can potentially lead to negative outcomes in their babies. There have been some reports of congenital microcephaly (small head) in babies whose mothers contracted Zika in pregnancy.
At this time, pregnant women are being discouraged from travelling to areas with high Zika infection rates.
If you have Zika virus, ensure you:
- Get rest
- Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration
- Take fever or pain medicines as directed
- Avoid Aspirin or NSAIDS (like Ibuprofen), unless you are sure you do not have dengue (as NSAID use can increase the risk of bleeding)
- If you have Zika virus avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitos that bite you can pass the virus onto someone else.
- Avoid mosquito areas from dusk till dawn
- Kids and adults over the age of 6 months can wear Deet containing bug spray.
- Wear long sleeves and pants when you can
- Aim for light colour clothing
- Use mosquito netting on strollers and car seats for babies.