Fatigue, muscle aches, rash, red eyes, mild fever. Is it Zika?
Now that the Zika virus has been transmitted by local mosquitos in Florida, we are all wondering when it will come to Washington DC. This city was built on a swamp and we have all experienced the mosquitos here. Our area has the right type of Aedes mosquito and we have lots of international travelers here, given that we are the nation’s capital. Two weeks ago we looked at risk factors for contracting Zika virus, as a resident of the District of Columbia. What happens if you have done your best to protect yourself but are starting to feel ill? How do you know if it’s Zika or just a run-of-the-mill virus? First, call us to schedule an appointment. We can test for Zika- we will draw your blood here and send it to a national laboratory for testing. Second, be on the safe side and only take Tylenol (acetaminophen) even if you’ve only been in the continental US. Given that Dengue has the same symptoms as Zika, and increases bleeding risk, don’t take Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen). If you have been out of the country recently we will discuss your risk factors, test for similar viruses such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya and determine the proper treatment for you. Above all, the treatment for Zika is supportive rather than curative- meaning lots of fluids, lots of rest, and time. The symptoms of the virus can last 2-7 days. Keep in mind that many, if not most, people who have Zika do not have any symptoms at all. That means that Zika can spread more easily, as infected people can remain active and exposed to mosquitos that will transmit the virus by biting an infected person and then an uninfected person and transferring the virus. Keep protecting yourself with insect repellent as needed and safe sex practices.
As a resident of Washington, DC you may be wondering… What is your risk for contracting Zika virus?
We have all heard about the risks of travelling to the tropical areas of the Caribbean, Central and South America. We have heard from athletes who are avoiding the Olympic Games this summer in Brazil due to the risk of being infected by a mosquito bite while there. We know that the Zika virus can also be transmitted by sexual contact with someone who has the virus. This past week we also learned that there are likely two cases of Zika in Florida (they are being confirmed) where the patient did not travel out of the country nor did they have sexual contact with anyone who did. These are believed to be the first two cases in the continental United States where the infection came directly from a mosquito on US soil. We have also learned of a case in New York State where for the first time we have confirmed transmission of Zika from a woman who returned from the tropics, and had sexual contact with her male partner that day of return. She developed symptoms the next day and her partner developed symptoms a few days after that. And more concerning, we learned of a case in Utah, where a family member who was caring for someone with Zika developed the virus themselves. Research is still being done to determine the method of transmission in that case. We are still learning about the virus and transmission every week as scientists around the world are looking into it.
What do you need to do to reduce your risk?
- The type of mosquito that transmits Zika (Aedes) is active both day and night and it lives in our area. Each mosquito does not travel far and often lives its entire life in or around one home. So wear an effective insect repellent when you’re outside, make sure your window screens are in good repair so that you don’t invite mosquitos into your home, and avoid having standing water in the area around your home (anything that catches and collects water from a toy to furniture to a low area in the yard).
- Use a condom with each sexual encounter. Unless you are in an exclusive long term monogamous relationship you should be using barrier protections- male or female condoms or dental dams.
- If you are not using reliable birth control- get started now to avoid the possibility of transmitting Zika to an unborn child. Even in a monogamous relationship, if a partner in the relationship is capable of becoming pregnant then condoms should be used if a partner travels to tropical areas of the US (like Florida), Central or South America.
So stay educated through trusted sites such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and read future blog posts from us about Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya disease. If you or someone you know has questions about risk or possible infection call for an appointment or have a walk in visit to assess your risks or start testing and treatment if necessary. Kelly Goodman Group is here to help.