Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedesspecies mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. There have been some documented cases of the infection by sexual transmission as well. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth.
There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. A neurologic complication in infected individuals called Guillain Barre Syndrome has also been documented.
Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:
Women who are pregnant (in any trimester):
• Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
• Talk to your doctor before traveling to an at risk country.
• Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while in an at risk country.
Women who are trying to become pregnant:
• Before traveling, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika exposure.
• Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
Signs and Symptoms of Zika Virus Infection:
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Risk of Zika Virus Infection:
Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found who has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk for infection, including pregnant women. Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. The CDC currently recommends the practicing of enhanced infection prevention precautions, as outlined below, when you are traveling to, in, or from an at risk country or region. Current at risk countries and regions may be found at the CDC Travelers’ Health site .
Zika Virus Infection Prevention:
There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.
Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites:
• Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 and always use as directed.
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
• Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children aged >2 months.
• Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
• Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
Returning travelers can help stop the spread of Zika virus by:
• Preventing mosquito bites, as noted above, for 3 weeks upon return from travel.
• Using latex condoms when having sex.
• Watching for symptoms.
• Contacting your health care provider immediately if you suspect Zika infection.
If you feel sick and think you may be at risk for Zika Infection:
• Talk to your doctor or nurse if you develop a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Tell him or her about your travel.
• Take medicine, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
• Get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
• Prevent additional mosquito bites to avoid spreading the disease.
Zika Risk Assessments for UT Students, Faculty, and Staff:
UT students, faculty, or staff who have traveled in affected regions and who are concerned that they may have been exposed to the virus, are encouraged to contact our Telephone Triage Nurse at (865) 974-5080 to receive a Zika risk assessment. Information regarding your risk and additional advice pertaining to your particular circumstances will be provided. This brief assessment performed over the phone is offered as a free service to our campus community.
Other University Measures:
University officials are continually monitoring for the development of health and safety issues that may impact our campus community. The University has prepared a plan of action and has designated specific departments as responders in the event of an outbreak of a disease affecting our campus. They stand ready to respond in the event of an occurrence in our area. At this time, measures have already been taken to reduce and control mosquito breeding grounds on and around campus by removing standing water. All students involved in University-sponsored international travel/study abroad programs have also been notified and advised of risk reduction measures. As the public health agency for our campus, our Student Health Center, in conjunction with the University’s Office of Emergency Management, will actively communicate with officials at the Knox County Health Department regarding this issue and continue to review frequent communications from other State and Federal health officials. Return to this site for situation updates and links to other reliable resources.
What CDC is doing about Zika:
CDC has been aware of Zika for some time and has been preparing for its possible introduction into the United States. Laboratories in many countries have been trained to test for chikungunya and dengue. These skills have prepared these laboratories for Zika testing.
CDC is working with international public health partners and with state health departments to:
• Alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika.
• Provide state health laboratories with diagnostic tests.
• Detect and report cases, which will help prevent further spread.
The arrival of Zika in the Americas demonstrates the risks posed by this and other exotic viruses. CDC’s health security plans are designed to effectively monitor for disease, equip diagnostic laboratories, and support mosquito control programs both in the United States and around the world.
The above information has been obtained from the CDC’s website. Additional information regarding Zika Virus and other travel related infectious diseases may be found at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices .