FAQs about the Zika Virus

mosquito control and the zika virusThe Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. The virus was found in monkeys by a team that monitored yellow fever. Five years later, it was identified in humans and outbreaks of this virus were recorded in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific. The first large outbreak of disease caused by Zika virus was reported in 2007. As you can see, this virus isn’t something new, but still, it raises a lot of questions.

What is Zika virus?

Zika is a flavivirus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It belongs to a family that includes other well-known viruses that cause dangerous diseases for humans, such as West Nile Fever, yellow fever, dengue, and tick-born encephalitis.

Where can you get infected with Zika virus?

The highest risk to get infected is in countries with ongoing breakouts. The first cases were reported from Brazil, and the disease has spread to several other countries in South America and the Caribbean. It’s expected that it will continue to spread.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?

The most common symptoms include a mild fever and rash that lasts 3-8 days. Some patients may also get conjunctivitis, as well as muscle and joint pain. Even though it sounds quite serious, the illness is usually mild. People typically don’t need to go to the hospital for treatment, and they very rarely die from the disease.

Why is everyone so scared of Zika virus?

In 2013, during the outbreak in French Polynesia, health officials there noticed several cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder in which a body’s immune system attacks it own nerves. This syndrome is linked to an outbreak of Zika virus. Also, during the Brazil outbreak, scientists discovered how a birth defect called microcephaly may be caused by Zika virus in pregnant women. This defect is when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, which can result in lifelong complications.

Are there any cases of Zika virus in Illinois?

At the time this article was written, the Illinois Department of Public Health has reported 23 cases of this disease in Illinois. Anyone who is traveling to an area where Zika virus is found is at risk for infection. For the most updated information, please visit the CDC’s Zika Travel Information page. However, it’s important to remember that a Zika outbreak in the United States is likely to be limited and short-lived.

How is Zika virus disease diagnosed?

The Zika virus can be diagnosed using laboratory testing. If a patient has recently traveled to an affected area, or if a patient has symptoms compatible with Zika, health care providers may order blood tests to look for Zika.

How can Zika be prevented?

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine that protects from the virus at this time. The best protection is effective mosquito control and prevention. When you do go outside, do everything possible to prevent mosquito bites. Don’t let these disease-spreading pests near you — use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, and use mosquito nets.

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