If you pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV, you’ve probably heard about Zika virus, a virus spread by mosquitoes that has found its way to the U.S. in recent months. With summer vacations upon us and folks spending more time outdoors, expert nurse Rose Melendez, RN, director of the Emergency Department at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, answers our questions about Zika virus.
What exactly is Zika virus?
Nurse Rose: Zika virus is similar to West Nile virus, which is primarily spread by mosquitoes. It typically causes flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, redness of the eyes, muscle pain and headache. It can also be spread from mother to baby in pregnant women, sexually and by blood transfusion from an infected person. One thing that’s important to remember is that symptoms are typically mild, and most people recover within several days.
Do we need to worry about Zika virus here in the U.S.?
Nurse Rose: While there have been Zika-infected individuals in the U.S., most of the cases have been in people who have traveled to Latin American and Caribbean countries, where Zika virus is most common. At this point, nobody has become infected from a mosquito bite here in the U.S. Health officials are already preparing mosquito-control measures if Zika virus does begin to spread by mosquitos within the U.S.
What should we be doing to protect ourselves from Zika virus?
Nurse Rose: There is currently no treatment for Zika virus. The best thing you can do is protect yourself from mosquito bites, both when traveling abroad and here at home, by following these steps.
- Wear mosquito repellent with DEET whenever you’re outdoors
- Apply mosquito repellent after you’ve applied sunscreen or any other lotions
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors
- Stay indoors with air conditioning when possible
- Remove any standing bodies of water around your home where mosquitos could breed.
If you’re pregnant, you should consult your doctor before visiting any Latin American or Caribbean country because Zika virus can affect the fetus. Health officials recommend that pregnant women not visit these countries. You can find more information about Zika virus here: www.cdc.gov/zika.
What should I do if I think I’m infected with Zika virus?
Nurse Rose: As always, you should see your doctor and be sure to tell them if you’ve recently traveled to an area that might be affected by Zika virus.
Additional Health Tips from Rose
Hear more health tips from Rose by tuning in to WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m.