By Mr. Kirk Frady (Army Medicine)February 5, 2016
What is it, where is it and how is it spread?
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus closely related to yellow fever, dengue, and West Nile viruses. A Zika virus outbreak was identified in Brazil in early 2015; since then, it has spread to more than twenty-five other countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 2 Travel Alert (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. This includes the recommendation that women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
Prevention - what can I do to prevent catching it?
The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten. There is currently no vaccine for Zika. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime and prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near humans. The best prevention is to minimize standing water in items like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases.
What if I am pregnant or want to become pregnant?
If you are pregnant and plan to travel to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, consider postponing travel until after delivery. If you are pregnant and traveled to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, your provider can arrange for testing to see if you were infected, even if you never experienced symptoms. If you are not yet pregnant, there is no evidence that Zika infection prior to conception poses a risk for any future pregnancies.
If you think you've been infected, what should you do?
If you think you may be infected, see your primary care provider immediately. If you have recently traveled abroad, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled. Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya.
What are the symptoms?
• About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
• The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
• The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
• Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
• Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
• Deaths are rare
• There is no current vaccine available to prevent Zika infections.
• There is no specific treatment for Zika infections; instead, treat the symptoms.
• Your healthcare provider will recommend supportive treatment such as rest and rehydration.
• If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
• During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites.
• An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
What are the Army and DoD doing?
Department of Defense (DoD) labs are enhancing techniques to test mosquitoes for Zika. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is offering voluntary relocation out of affected areas to all pregnant DoD employees and beneficiaries, and all Army medical facilities have been notified of the concerns surrounding Zika infections and are prepared to assist patients who may have been infected. The Armed Forces Pest Management Board recommends wear of permethrin-treated uniforms/clothing, use of approved insect repellent, and removal of standing water that may serve as mosquito breeding sites to prevent bites.