It feels like the Ebola crisis was just winding down when the World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency in February. Many are concerned about the Zika virus; how it spreads, what areas are affected and what the consequences of being infected are.
There is currently a lot of research being done to answer these questions as well as others. While EMS does not currently take active part in Zika research, we are prepared to aid the federal government with emergency response services through one of multiple existing contract vehicles. Because the research is ongoing, this article may contain incomplete or inaccurate information and is only meant to be a reflection of what we currently know. If you want to learn more, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s page on Zika.
The Zika virus is a viral pathogen that is spread through mosquito bites. If a person is bitten by an infected mosquito they may begin to exhibit symptoms within a few days. The symptoms include fever, rashes, red eyes and joint pain and can last for a week after the individual bitten by the infected mosquito. A Zika patient may also be asymptomatic. The symptoms are rarely so severe that it is necessary to visit a hospital. After an infection the immune system will remain alert to the Zika virus, protecting patients from future Zika infections.
While Zika is mostly harmless for most people, pregnant women and their fetuses are at risk. If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika it is likely that the fetus will be born with a serious brain defect called microcephaly. A Zika infection during pregnancy may also cause poor development of other brain structures, eyes or the hearing apparatus. As a result the CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas where Zika has been found. There have been no reports of Zika transmission through breastfeeding.
Today we know Zika outbreaks have happened in Africa, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Mexico. There have been cases in the continental United States, but none of these patients were infected by local mosquitoes. However, infected mosquitoes have been reported in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Click here for the latest Travel Notice Information from the CDC.
The Zika virus can be transmitted between humans through blood or semen. No blood transfusion infections have been reported in the US, but multiple have been reported in Brazil.
This article does not constitute medical advice. If you fear that you may have been infected, seek a consultation with a medical professional.
Program Manager for Biomedical Engineering
Eagle Medical Services, LLC