Zika: Myth Vs. Reality

July 18, 2016By

As the media has continued to report news regarding the Zika virus, there has been much confusion regarding all aspects of the disease. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”

While nearly every country is on high alert watching for the spread of this disease, many people are also confused about certain aspects of the disease. In this article, we will decipher Zika myth vs reality and hope to clear up some of the confusion.

Zika Virus and Babies

One of the biggest concerns about the Zika virus is the potential impact that it has on a growing fetus. It is a reality that Zika can cause birth defects. The prominent birth defect caused by Zika is microcephaly.

While the exact incidence of birth defect cases is unknown, it was shown that Brazil had a 20-fold increase in microcephaly cases with the outbreak of Zika. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than what is considered normal.

This happens because the brain is not properly developed during pregnancy or has even stopped growing after birth.

Because of this high risk of microcephaly, the CDC strongly recommends that women who are trying to become pregnant and pregnant women in any trimester should avoid traveling to Zika hot spots. If it is absolutely necessary for you to travel to an area where Zika is prevalent, then it’s important to talk to your doctor first.

Transmission

There are several ways in which Zika can be transmitted. The first and most primary transmission method is when a human is bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. When a mosquito feeds on another person who is infected with Zika, they become infected.

These infected mosquitos transmit the virus to other human beings through bites.

Another way that Zika can be transmitted is from mother to baby. During pregnancy, a pregnant woman infected with Zika can pass along the virus to her fetus. There are no cases reported of Zika being passed along to infants through breastfeeding.

Zika is also transmitted by a man to his partner through sexual contact. In these types of cases, we have learned that the virus can be spread before a man has symptoms, when he has symptoms, and after the symptoms resolve.

Another way that Zika can be spread is through blood transfusion. As of February 2016, no confirmed transmission through blood transfusion have occurred in the U.S., though there have been numerous cases in Brazil.

Zika can be spread through laboratory exposure as well. Prior to the outbreak, there were four reports of laboratory-acquired Zika infections, but the route of transmission was not clearly established in all cases.

One myth about Zika is that you can catch it from water. This is not true.

Areas with Zika

Currently, there is a Zika outbreak in many countries and territories. The outbreak has spread to Mexico, most of Central America and most of South America. It has also spread to US Territories such as US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

No mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in US, but tests have confirmed Zika in travelers returning to the United States. Of these cases, the travelers got the virus from mosquito bites and non-travelers contracted Zika through sexual contact with a traveler.

Prevention

One common myth is that there is no way to prevent Zika. This is not true. It’s possible to lower your risk of infection by keeping away from mosquitos, clearing out breeding grounds, and using condoms. It is recommended to have some form of protection from mosquitos for your home which can be put in place by pest control professionals in your area.

You can avoid mosquito bites by using repellant with at least 20% DEET. The main ways of prevention include reducing exposure to mosquitos, watching out for stagnant water, and covering up if you’re in mosquito breeding sites.

Any new disease outbreak can be scary and intimidating. Unfortunately, much confusion is being broadcast through different forms of media and social media which makes it difficult to decipher what is the truth. Thankfully, more information is being released about this disease which makes it easier to keep track of what is myth vs reality.

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Filed in: Mosquito