By: Mayette Calleja-Baglieri, RN, MSN
Since the first identified mosquito-borne Zika virus infection outbreak in 2007, seventy countries and territories have reported active Zika virus transmission. Of these 70, fifty three countries, including the U.S. first reported a Zika outbreak in 2015, with Brazil being the epicenter of the outbreak. As of September 14, 2016, 3,132 Zika cases in the continental U.S. were contracted from travel abroad, with Florida reporting the first locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika cases in July 2016.
This Sept. 14th, 2016 CDC Zika map shows the dark blue states of CA, TX, NY, NJ, PA, and FL with active travel- associated Zika virus transmission.
The Philippines, a country with evidence of local, mosquito-borne, laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infections in 2016 has had this mosquito-borne Zika virus circulating for several years.
How Does Zika Spread?
It spreads to people through the bite of an infected black and white-striped Aedes Aegypti or Aedes Albopictus mosquito, also responsible for transmitting dengue fever and yellow fever. This mosquito likes to be indoors around people. They can bite and spread infection anytime during the day and during the year. Native to Southeast Asia, it has spread by transport of goods.
The virus can also be spread through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners; as well as from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy and around the time of birth. Lastly, though not confirmed, the Zika virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
Although in some adults, Zika virus infection has been linked to Guillian-Barre Syndrome, which is a neurologic condition that affect the nerves resulting in muscle weakness, inability to move, walk, and even breathe; fact is about 80% of Zika-infected people never even show symptoms. Adults with symptoms may display only a mild fever, itchy rash, bloodshot eyes, headache, muscle pain and joint pain lasting a few days.
The worst danger of the Zika virus infection is its ability to put pregnant and want-to-be pregnant women at risk of having their babies born with severe birth defects. The babies are born with microcephaly (abnormally small heads), underdeveloped brains, hearing loss, eye defects and impaired growth.
This past August 2016’s unfortunate bipartisan disagreement between the House and the Senate failing to pass the bill appropriating an additional $1.1 billion dollars in funding needed to fight Zika, has placed American lives in further danger. The “Zika In Infants and Pregnancy” trial launched in June, 2016 by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) can not proceed. The trial was to enroll as many as 10,000 pregnant women from 15
different areas with the intention to follow them through their pregnancies to determine outcomes for mother and child if infected with the Zika virus.
Until funding is approved, the NIAID Vaccine Research Center’s development of Zika vaccines will be slowed down.
Meanwhile, how can the spread of Zika be prevented?
Although there is NO immunization vaccine yet, there are ways we can employ to help prevent transmission.
1. Get rid of standing water such as in flower vases, wet shower floors, outside water containers, and control mosquitoes inside and outside our homes.
2. Prevent mosquito bites using Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) registered mosquito repellents, window/door screens, mosquito netting, and by wearing protective clothing.
3. Couples who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika should abstain or use a condom from start to finish for all types of sexual activity – for the duration of the pregnancy.
4. Couples who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika and do not have symptoms should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant (even with abstinence or use of condoms).
5. Couples with Zika virus symptoms should wait at least 6 months before trying to get pregnant (even with abstinence or use of condoms).
6. Know whether the kinds of mosquitoes that carry Zika are located where you work, live, or travel.
7. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. The National Library of Medicine offers a Zika Virus Health Information Resource Guide for more information on where the current risks are.
8. We need to support research on accurate tests that identify Zika-infected women during pregnancy at risk for developing fetal complications; as well as research for blood, organ and tissue donor screening tests to assure the safety of transfusion and transplantation.
9. For more information go to http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention.