Three things to know about Zika virus–UPDATE

*With recent news of a case of Zika virus transmitted sexually in Dallas, we asked Dr. Hardesty for an update to this post.  

“Sexual contact or an exchange of blood and/or bodily fluids with an infected person can transmit this disease. I recommend that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant take caution with their partners if they have traveled to any of the areas where mosquitos carry Zika virus. However, the virus is NOT transmitted through casual contact.”

Original post with update: 

If you’ve lived in Texas very long, you have probably had experience with one of our major summer pests: mosquitos. But sometimes these insects and their itchy bites are more than just a nuisance. They can come with diseases only they can spread, such as the West Nile virus, Dengue Fever, and Zika virus.

Zika virus, which has recently made the news due to its’ recent spread into Brazil and other South American countries, is a concern because of the extreme danger it poses for pregnant women and their unborn children. It can cause a condition called microcephaly, which results in the child’s head being smaller than normal. It also affects brain development.

Dr. Glenn Hardesty, a physician on the emergency medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, listed three things you need to know about Zika virus.

1. There has not been a case of transmission directly from a mosquito in the United States.

The only cases of the virus in North America are in people who became infected while traveling to one of the countries with infected mosquitos or people who had intimate contact with someone who became affected.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a complete list here.
“The issue comes with the women who are traveling to these places,” Dr. Hardesty said. “You can’t catch it by sitting next to someone who is infected. It has to be transmitted by an affected mosquito.”

2. Prevention is key.

Even though the mosquito carrying this virus does not reside in the United States, Hardesty recommends that pregnant women (and everyone else) avoid mosquito bites by wearing long pants and long sleeves, using an insect repellent and making sure there is no standing water around your house.
“I would also avoid traveling to those areas if you are pregnant,” he said. “We don’t know if it could become endemic here, but I think the best thing to do is to avoid acquiring a mosquito borne illness.”

Hardesty also said that the disease can be transmitted sexually.

“Sexual contact or an exchange of blood and/or bodily fluids with an infected person can transmit this disease,” he said. “I recommend that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant take caution with their partners if they have traveled to any of the areas where mosquitos carry Zika virus. However, the virus is NOT transmitted through casual contact.”

3. There is no treatment for the Zika Virus.

“If you’ve been to an area where it’s endemic and you exhibit viral symptoms such as body aches and fever and you’re pregnant, you might want to consider testing,” he said. “But even if you are positive, no definitive treatment exists. Current recommendations are to follow the fetus with serial sonograms measuring head circumference monitoring for microcephaly.”

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