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What should I know about the Zika Virus?

Medical Moments

Heather Linder

This Medical Moment is part one of a two part series on Zika virus.

The Zika virus is a flavivirus related to dengue and yellow fever that is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently advise against travel to countries experiencing Zika outbreaks, especially pregnant women. Countries in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean have been effected by the virus. For an up to date list of effected countries, please visit the CDC website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

The Zika virus is diagnosed by a blood test through the CDC. Four out of five people infected with the Zika virus do not experience symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and may last from a few days to a week and include – fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache. For those that do experience symptoms rest, fluids and acetaminophen are recommended.

However, it has been found that the virus can be spread from pregnant women to the fetus and may cause devastating birth defects, including microcephaly (small head) and brain damage. The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women avoid travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks.

Additionally, sexual transmission of Zika may occur. Zika virus has been found to replicate in semen of infected men for two to ten weeks or more. According to the latest CDC guidelines, “men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.”

As there is no vaccine for the Zika virus, the following precautions are recommended for those travelling to effected countries to avoid being bitten by mosquitos – wear long sleeves and pants, stay in places with air conditioning, use mosquito bed nets, apply mosquito repellent, and use clothing treated with permethrin.

Most airlines and travel companies are refunding or rebooking tickets for pregnant travelers and their families who were planning to travel to areas currently effected by the Zika virus.

***Telluride Regional Medical Center Quickfacts 2016 -For a brief update on the current state of the Telluride Regional Medical Center, growth figures for 2015, plans for a new facility in Mountain Village, as well as the funding strategy for the new facility, click here.

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