The Buzz: What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

Zika virus risk symbol as the shadow of a disease carrying mosquito forming text that represents the danger of transmitting infection through bug bites resulting in zika fever.

 

The summer season brings barbecues, beaches . . .and bugs, especially mosquitos. The winged-pests are raising concerns as the Zika virus spreads through South and Central America, and the virus poses significant concern for pregnant women and their unborn children, but what is the risk in your backyard?

It is extremely unlikely that anyone could become infected with Zika virus from a mosquito bite in Massachusetts, as the kinds of mosquitoes that are known to carry Zika virus – the Aedes species — are generally not found in this state, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  The risk is largely to those who travel to affected areas, and are diagnosed with the virus upon their return home.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitos  and can be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion and from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (commonly referred to as “pink eye”), muscle pain and headache.  Health officials say most people who contract the Zika virus will not get sick. Pregnant women, however, are at a greater risk if infected with the virus as it can be spread to the unborn baby and is believed to cause microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by abnormal brain and head development. In addition, Zika has been found to trigger Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a sickness of the nervous system that causes a person’s immune system to damage nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

The Centers for Disease Control is on high alert as the virus continues to spread through South and Central America and the Caribbean. According to the CDC, the current Zika virus outbreak was identified in Brazil in May 2015, and knowledge about Zika virus infection, its potential adverse effects on pregnancy, and transmission is rapidly evolving.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases, the likelihood of being infected with the virus here is minimal as the species of mosquito known to carry the virus do not exist in Massachusetts. The risk, however, is to residents who travel to affected areas – such as Central and South America and the Caribbean. The CDC recommends travelers to affected countries take precautions, such as applying mosquito repellant and wearing long-sleeve shirts. Pregnant women are being advised to postpone travel to affected countries.

For the latest updates on Zika virus and travel advisories, go to http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

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