By Dr. Jotir A. Ramnarine
By now, just about everyone has heard of Zika virus. This mosquito-borne virus can be dangerous to women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant because it may cause birth defects. But with so much written about Zika in the media, it’s important to separate fact from fiction so you know the truth about this illness. Test your knowledge of Zika virus below.
True or false: Zika virus is only transmitted by mosquitos.
FALSE. While most cases are mosquito-borne, transmission of the virus is possible in several other ways. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Zika can be transmitted from an infected man to his sex partners. The virus can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy. Other modes of transmission such as blood transfusion are also being investigated, with two cases reported in Brazil.
True or false: Zika virus often causes no or only mild symptoms.
TRUE. Most people with Zika won’t even know they have the disease. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, and symptoms normally last for two to seven days.
True or false: If you’re pregnant, there may be additional complications associated with Zika virus.
TRUE. While research is ongoing, serious birth defects and other risks have been discovered as a result of Zika virus, leading to the CDC to recommend that pregnant women – or those trying to become pregnant – delay any trips to areas where Zika has been confirmed.
True or false: When it comes to contracting Zika, you only have to worry about being bitten by mosquitos outdoors.
FALSE. Since mosquitos are more than happy to bite wherever they can find you, you should take precautions both outdoors AND indoors. Make sure you have screens on your windows to help keep mosquitos out of your home.
True or false: There’s nothing you can do to protect yourself from Zika while traveling.
FALSE. The regular use of insect repellent (even when indoors!), plus covering exposed skin with long sleeve shirts and long pants to avoid bites, can help protect yourself from virus-carrying mosquitos. In tropical locales, use insect netting where you sleep and around windows and doors. Many hotels may even offer these to their guests, so it’s good to ask.
The CDC website at www.cdc.gov/zika is a good place to go for important resources and other information related to Zika. The CDC has been tracking confirmed cases around the world, so you can learn where the virus has been found so far. Of course, it always makes good sense to protect yourself and anyone you’re traveling with regardless of whether there has been a confirmed case.
It’s also important to get and stay as healthy as you can to help fight off symptoms of Zika and other diseases and viruses. To help you do this, you can get a customized Preventive Care Plan here, based on your age, gender and any of your known conditions. You can then schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your plan and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Dr. Jotir A. Ramnarine specializes in infectious disease and internal medicine for AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), one of New York’s largest physician-led multi-specialty practices and a partner of EmblemHealth. ACPNY serves half a million patients in 36 locations throughout New York City and Long Island. Find out more at acpny.com. For information about EmblemHealth, visitemblemhealth.com.