Written by Joel Engardio for Doctor On Demand
Watching the news about the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus can be scary, especially if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. Health agencies are working hard to understand Zika and prevent further infections. Doctor On Demand physicians are following the situation and are up-to-date on the latest recommendations if you have any questions about traveling to Zika-infected areas.
Here is what you need to know about Zika:
Zika has been in parts of Africa and Asia since the 1950s. But it is new to the western hemisphere. The first case in Brazil was reported in May 2015 and more than 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected since. Zika spread rapidly through Latin America and the Caribbean. It has arrived in the United States, currently in Miami.
Nearly 20 percent of people infected with Zika will experience symptoms like fever or joint pain that last about a week. The biggest danger is with pregnant women. The virus can cause microcephaly in their unborn children — resulting in an abnormally small head and brain damage.
Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. It can also be spread through sexual contact. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has called on all blood banks to screen for Zika.
Currently there is no antiviral treatment available.
Mosquito control: Eliminating mosquitoes can stop the spread of Zika. But the methods of spraying chemicals in residential areas has been a cause of protest in Miami.
Birth control: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asks women in Puerto Rico to consider whether now is the right time to get pregnant due to the rampant spread of Zika. The government of El Salvador has asked women to wait until 2018 to get pregnant.
Travel: The CDC advise pregnant women to not travel to Zika-infected areas. It also recommends that men who have travelled to Zika-infected areas use condoms when having sex so they do not pass the virus to their partners.
Avoid mosquito bites: Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and shirts, use screens and air conditioning in your home or sleep under a mosquito net.
How Doctor On Demand can help
Before traveling, consult with a Doctor On Demand physician for an update on Zika recommendations. Doctor On Demand can also give you a plan for other travel-related illnesses and vaccines.