WHAT IS ZIKA?
Zika is a virus spread by mosquitos and is related to yellow fever, West Nile and dengue. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus actually become ill and experience mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. Individuals infected with Zika virus rarely require hospitalization and very few deaths have ever been reported. Though not yet scientifically proven, experts strongly suspect a causal relationship between maternal Zika infection during pregnancy and adverse fetal outcomes, such as congenital microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than those of other children of the same age and sex and often results in developmental issues.
Zika virus was first discovered in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947. Since then small outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infections in Brazil. The virus has now spread to many countries across the Americas. On February 1, 2015, the World Health Organization Director-General declared that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
International Medical Corps has a long-standing health program in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, where we have begun to include messages about mosquito bite prevention in our ongoing public health messaging.
International Medical Corps continues to actively monitor the situation, and we stand ready to assist if needed.
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and through sexual contact with an infected male partner. It is possible that a woman infected with the virus could pass it to her baby during pregnancy, but more studies are being conducted on this path of transmission. To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastmilk. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion has been reported.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus. When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding mosquito bites. To avoid being bitten by mosquitos, CDC recommendations include:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents and follow the directions.
Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.
For detailed prevention information, visit CDC’s website.
There is no specific medication to help treat Zika virus infection. To treat the symptoms the CDC recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration and taking medications such as acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
Other Infectious Diseases:
For 30 years, a significant number of International Medical Corps’ responses have included technical assistance for the treatment and control of epidemic diseases. We work to help vulnerable communities prevent and respond to infectious diseases that have the potential to cross borders and become acute public health risks including: