Living in Florida, we have had patients and friends concerned over the possibility of having symptoms of Zika virus or contracting the virus when visiting the state. Here are a few details on what we know about Zika virus.
Zika fever is a mild febrile illness caused by a mosquito-borne virus. It has been identified in several countries in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean since 2015. Outbreaks have previously been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Local transmission has been reported in Puerto Rico, but not elsewhere in the United States. Cases of Zika have been reported in travelers returning to the United States. Only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus are symptomatic. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
Signs and symptoms of Zika fever may include" acute onset of low-grade fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, body aches, headache, eye pain, and vomiting". Treatment is symptomatic since there is no specific treatment against the virus. Illness usually resolves within a week. Guillain-Barre' syndrome has been reported in patients following suspected Zika virus infection but the relationship to Zika is unconfirmed.
Zika is transmitted through the mosquito Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, both aggresive daytime biters. Other modes of transmission include Maternal-fetal, sexual, blood transfusion, lab exposure and possibly organ transplantation and breast milk exposure.
Travelers to a tropical or subtropical area can protect themselves from Zika and other mosquito-borne disease by following these prevention suggestions: Using insect repellant with DEET, picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, covering skin with long sleeved shirts and long pants, applying a permethrin repellent directy to clothing, and keeping mosquitoes out of hotel rooms.
Zika, of course, has been found to be most dangerous in its association with pregnancy. In Brazil, reports of a substanital increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly was seen in 2015. Zika virus was identified in several infants born with microcephaly and in early fetal losses. The CDC recommends that pregnant women in any trimester should consder postponing travel to areas where Zika is present.
Zika should be considered in travelers with acute onset of fever, rash, arhralgia, or conjunctivitis within 2 weeks after return from Zika prone countries. Zika virus is a nationally notifiable disease and healthcare providers are encouraged to report suspected cases to the state health department. The health department can ensure that lab tests are odered and interpreted correctly.
As summer approaches, please keep your kids protected from the bites of mosquitos!
This update comes directly from the website of the Florida Department of Health. A wealth of detailed information on this and other mosquito borne diseases is available at http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/zika-virus/index.html?utm_source=flhealthIndex.