By Isabel M. Zaru-Roque
Zika virus has made many headlines over the past few months. As a student, this information can be overwhelming and may leave you feeling helpless. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have the information you need to stay informed.
Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes. According to the WHO, symptoms include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache, although not all infected people display symptoms. Pregnant women can pass the virus to their fetuses during pregnancy, and Zika virus has been recently identified as a cause of congenital microcephaly. According to the CDC, congenital microcephaly is a condition where a newborn’s head circumference is less than expected and may be life-threatening based on the severity of the condition. Researchers also have identified that Zika virus can be transmitted sexually through unprotected sex.
To reduce the chances of being infected, the CDC has developed a helpful website. If you are traveling to areas where Zika virus infection has been documented or where Aedes species mosquitoes are endemic, educate yourself and your travel companions using the CDC website. Parts of the U.S. where Zika virus has been transmitted locally as of Sept. 15, 2016, include Florida, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When traveling, bring a “Zika prevention kit,” which you can make at home. According to the CDC, a complete kit should contain insect repellent, permethrin spray (insect repellent for your belongings), bed nets to drape over any sleeping areas, standing water-treatment tablets and condoms for sexually-active adults. Likewise, if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, the CDC recommends that you not travel to areas with Zika virus.
The WHO and the CDC stress the need for education in order to reduce the number of individuals impacted by the Zika virus. Anyone can raise awareness about the virus and provide others with the information on the CDC website to help reduce viral spread.