With reports of the Zika virus on the rise, many people—particularly pregnant women—are becoming concerned.
Here are five key things you should know about Zika:
1. It spreads mainly through certain mosquitoes. Most people become infected with the virus after they are bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. This type of mosquito does live in many areas of the U.S. People have also gotten Zika through sex, and pregnant women can pass it to their babies.
2. Not everyone with Zika has symptoms. Some people have a fever, a rash, joint pain, possible headache and muscle pain, or red eyes for up to a week.
3. There's no specific Zika treatment. The illness is usually mild. Treatment focuses on easing the symptoms until the virus has run its course. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika.
4. Zika can cause birth defects. The main concern is with a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, which has occurred in some babies born to infected women. Babies infected with Zika may also have eye and hearing problems and impaired growth.
5. You can fight Zika. If you're concerned about Zika, you might want to take the following steps to help prevent mosquito bites:
• Cover bare skin with long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
• Use an insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-3,8-diol. Follow the directions on the label.
• Install screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out, and run an air conditioner.
• Rid your home and yard of mosquito breeding sites, such as standing water.
You can also help protect yourself from Zika by using condoms or by not having sex, especially if your partner has traveled to areas with Zika outbreaks.
For the latest updates on Zika, and information on free screenings for qualified candidates, visit the Polk County Health Department online at www.polk.floridahealth.gov. Valuable information can also be found at www.cdc.gov/zika.
Watson Clinic patients who suspect they might need to be tested for the Zika virus – particularly if they are pregnant or of child-bearing age – are encouraged to consult their physician during a regularly scheduled appointment for information on testing protocols, and whether or not they qualify.