Zika Virus

Zika Virus

February 22, 2016

Students, Faculty and Staff,

With midterm break in our upcoming future, the Health Center wanted to provide you with information regarding the Zika virus in the event that you might have plans to travel to one of the areas affected.  Popular spring break travel sites in Mexico and the Caribbean are currently impacted, as are many countries in South and Central America, the Pacific Islands and Cape Verde.  Cases in the United States have been reported as well, but most have been travel-associated.  For the latest Zika Travel Information, please visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices as the information is regularly updated.

The most common symptoms of Zika disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).  Symptoms typically begin 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The illness is usually quite mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Most people do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and deaths due to Zika are rare. In fact, only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick; thus, many people do not even realize they have been infected.

Zika disease is transmitted by the Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Steps to prevent mosquito bites can be found at www.cdc.gov/Zika/prevention/index.html.

In addition, it is now believed that the Zika virus can be spread through sexual contact by a man to his sex partners, though it is not yet known how long the virus is present in the semen of men who have had Zika or if it can be transmitted by infected men who never develop symptoms of the disease.

There appears to be a link between the Zika virus and serious birth defects that result in brain and cranium abnormalities in infants. Therefore, any male who has visited a Zika affected country should refrain from, or use condoms for, all sexual contact with women to prevent spreading the virus to a female partner who is pregnant or could potentially become pregnant.  Women who are pregnant are advised against having sex with a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. When travel to these areas cannot be avoided or postponed, strict steps to prevent mosquito bites should be taken.

Human-to-mosquito-to-human transmission has been noted in the U.S. For that reason, anyone who returns to the U.S. from a Zika-affected country should continue to take precautions against mosquito bites after return to U.S. to prevent outbreaks in the U.S.

College health medical professionals are on alert for symptoms of Zika (as well as other mosquito-transmitted illnesses) in their patient populations, and are reviewing travel histories with patients presenting with Zika-like symptoms.

We want your spring break to be a safe one.  Please take the usual precautions we advise in regard to use of sun screen, limiting alcohol intake, safe sex, and now, Zika-prevention.

Respectfully,

Dr. Brenda Higgins, Director
Family Nurse Practitioner

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