Medical Program Assistant | Mental Health Services
Zika at a glance: Be prepared
Over the past year, Zika virus has become widespread in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, Cape Verde, and most recently, in South Florida. The spread of the virus has caused concern primarily because of its link to serious birth defects, including a condition known as microcephaly.
The virus is primarily transmitted to people through mosquito bites, but may also be transmitted sexually or from a pregnant mother to her fetus. In most cases, the virus causes either no symptoms or only a slight illness that typically lasts from several days to a week. Fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and joint pain are signs of infection.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, nor is there medicine to treat it. Common steps taken to prevent mosquito bites can help reduce the risk of contracting the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that travelers to countries where Zika virus have been reported use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people. (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).
The virus poses a particular risk to women thinking about becoming pregnant, or who are pregnant, and their male partners. The CDC advises women in this situation to postpone any travel to certain destinations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Cape Verde. Men who have traveled to these areas should understand the risks that they may transmit the virus, for up to 6 months post-travel, to their partners and take precautions. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/thinking-about-pregnancy.html
International travelers should visit a travel clinic at least six weeks before departure to learn about all country-specific recommendations to prevent illness, including needed vaccines and medications. For more information, students should contact the UHS Travel Clinic.
Faculty and staff members can contact their primary care provider to find a travel clinic in their community.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.