The Zika virus, an infection transmitted by mosquitoes, was originally discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda. It did not begin spreading into the Western hemisphere until around 2013, when it was identified as a mystery disease in northeast Brazil. In late July of 2016, the first case of the virus in the United States was in Florida. Although there is information available about how the virus is transmitted and the symptoms, since the virus has made its way into the United States, there are questions remaining about the virus.
Is There Reason For Concern?
The answer to this depends primarily where you live and whether you are currently pregnant or are planning to get pregnant. Those who live in or plan to travel to the Gulf Coast, especially Florida, Louisiana and Texas are at the highest risk of coming in contact with the Zika virus. It is important to note that while the virus has been identified in areas of the United States, the virus is actually more contained than what many people may realize. If you live in a city where there is a risk and you are pregnant, it has been recommended that you minimize your time outside and use DEET or another insect repellent when you are outdoors.
What is the Primary Concern For Pregnant Women?
Studies have shown that the fetus of pregnant women who become infected by the Zika virus are at risk of a condition known as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a congenital problem that results in the baby being born with an extremely small head and brain damage. The virus, as well as microcephaly itself may also cause deafness, blindness and seizures. It is still unknown whether the virus can affect pregnant women and their child during any stage of their pregnancy, but the early stage of pregnancy is the most concerning.
Does Zika Only Affect Pregnant Women?
Although it is not been positively identified as the primary cause, there have been a few cases where the Zika virus was liked to Guillen-Barre, which is a neurological illness that causes muscle weakness, fatigue and in some cases, paralysis. Guillen-Barre is typically caused by an immune response to a virus and typically runs its course in a few weeks.
The majority of people who are infected with the Zika virus do not have any noticeable symptoms, which may lead to concerns of cases of the virus not being reported. The good news, if you do become infected with the Zika virus, your body becomes immune to it. The majority of people who are, have been or become infected with the virus will develop antibodies. The virus only stays in your bloodstream for about one week and in your system for about two to three weeks. However, pregnant women who contract the virus may pass the virus onto the fetus and then it may come back to the mother.