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Zika Virus: Facts and Concerns
On Monday, February 1, 2016 the World Health Organization officially declared the Zika virus to be a global health emergency given its explosive spread in the past few months. It is a rare move for the international organization that may have been prompted by pressure from the previous ebola outbreak in Africa, where they were criticized for being sluggish to react to the human crisis.
Zika is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitos of the Aedes genus and is found in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. In most people it causes flu-like symptoms including fever, malaise, and skin rash. Normally it is hardly more noticeable or dangerous than the common cold.
However, there seems to be a link between pregnant women contracting the virus and the subsequent occurrence of microcephaly in the fetus, a term used to describe a decreased development of the head and cranium of the fetus. This link is not fully understood yet, but the recent rise in the occurrence of microcephaly appears to be coupled with the spread of Zika virus in Brazil.
The Good News
Currently there is little to no risk of contracting Zika virus in the North American continent. However, travelers to Central and South America - particularly pregnant travelers - are warned to take precautions against mosquito bites, including using long-sleeved clothing (preferably light colored), bug repellents, and mosquito netting over beds; and to avoid skin exposure during the evening and early morning when mosquitos are more active.
Pregnant travelers have been advised to avoid vacations in Central and South American countries suffering from outbreaks at this time.
The CDC has recently reported that the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted. Therefore it is recommended that men who have traveled to an active Zika virus region (or live in one) and have a pregnant partner should either abstain from sexual activity or use condoms during sex throughout the pregnancy.
There is no vaccine for Zika virus at this time nor is there a specific treatment recommendation for this virus. The WHO recommends treatment consisting of rest, fluids, and the treatment of fever and aches with basic, over-the-counter pain medications. Other anti-viral therapies and support may be suggested by your holistic medical provider.
Pregnant women who suspect they may have contracted the virus due to the above mentioned symptoms combined with recent travel to or through Central or South America should see their physician for proper assessment and potential treatment.
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