7 Things You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

In 1975, Steven Spielberg laid the foundation for one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on the American public when he rolled out his blockbuster hit “Jaws.” The vision of that Great White shark stalking unsuspecting swimmers from below motivated many of us to swear off beach vacations for life.

As menacing as sharks are, the truth is that they account for one death every two years. That’s enough to rank them 20th on the list of 25 most dangerous animals. But it’s hardly enough evidence to build a case for sharks as man-eating machines driven by an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

It turns out the animal we should fear most is not an 800-pound behemoth with rows of teeth like razors. Rather, it’s a diminutive, yet deadly insect most of us regard as a mere annoyance on our occasional camping trips.

Mosquitos infect seven million people annually and account for between two and three million fatalities. They are the aggressors responsible for such diseases as malaria, dengue fever and, most recently in the news, the Zika virus.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. In this 2:52 video, a WHO scientist explains what Zika is, who is at highest risk and how to protect yourself.

The Word Health Organization has declared Zika a global health emergency. Texas Mutual wants to arm you with the information you need to protect yourself. We encourage you to share these seven things you need to know about Zika with your family and your employees.

1. Most people who contract Zika don’t get sick.
Approximately 80 percent of people who catch Zika do not get sick. The 20 percent who do get sick typically endure mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, muscle aches, joint aches and pinkeye. Severe cases requiring hospitalization are uncommon.

2. The primary way to catch the virus is from an infected mosquito.
Zika is primarily spread to humans by the same species of mosquito responsible for dengue fever. Last week, however, a Dallas resident became the first reported case of Zika transmitted via sexual contact. There have been other reported links of Zika spread via infected blood and saliva, but none have been substantiated by health officials. The message, at least to date, is that protecting yourself from mosquito bites is the most effective way to steer clear of Zika.

3. You can follow these simple tips to limit mosquito bites.
There are no vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Zika virus infection. Your best protection is to arm yourself against mosquito bites:

  • Wear pants, long socks and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use insect repellants that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Always follow label directions, and do not spray repellant on skin under clothing. If you are also using sunscreen, apply it before applying insect repellant. Finally, do not put insect repellant on children under two years old.
  • Treat your clothes with permethrin for extra protection.
  • Avoid wearing perfume and cologne outdoors. They often attract mosquitos.

4. You should avoid travel to certain parts of the word.
Zika has hit some parts of the world, including Mexico and South America, harder than others. Health officials recommend you avoid travelling to those areas. If you must travel to an affected area, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips:

  • Consult the CDC’s travel advisories before going to an affected area.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Pregnant Women at Greatest Risk

Scientists have not fully vetted the relationship between Zika and birth defects, but evidence is pointing to a link, according to an expert with St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. Read this brief Q&A for more information.

5. Pregnant women should take extra precautions.
A bite by an infected mosquito is the primary way to catch the Zika virus. But there have been cases of mothers passing Zika to infants while giving birth. The results can include microcephaly and associated conditions such as hearing loss, vision problems and delayed development. The CDC stresses that research around the relationship between Zika and these conditions is ongoing. In the meantime, pregnant women should postpone travel to areas affected by Zika. For more tips, visit the CDC’s dedicated Web page for pregnant women.

6. If you contract Zika, you can reduce the risk of spreading it.
The symptoms of Zika are typically mild, lasting several days to a week. If you experience symptoms, see your health care provider. If blood tests confirm you have Zika, your provider will likely prescribe plenty of rest and fluids. It is important that you prevent mosquito bites during the first week of your illness to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

7. Information about Zika changes rapidly.
Information evolves rapidly during epidemics, and Zika is no exception. It seems the only thing we know for certain about the virus is that we don’t fully understand it or its potential impact. It is important for the public to stay current by following the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) on Twitter @TexasDSHS and registering for email updates. For general information, visit the DSHS and CDC websites.

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