Mar 4, 2016
Zika: General Population Concerns and Prevention What’s the Risk to Children, Men and Non-Pregnant Women?
You’ve heard about the problems the Zika virus can cause in pregnant women and their developing babies, but how might children, men and non-pregnant women be affected if infected through a mosquito bite?
For most people, the Zika virus poses little threat. Only one in five people infected by a Zika-carrying mosquito will develop symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. These symptoms are generally mild and don’t require hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most people clear the virus from their bodies within two weeks of infection.
If you or your child have traveled to an area affected by Zika and develop symptoms, treatment includes rest, fluids to prevent dehydration, and fever- and pain-reducing medications like acetaminophen.
So, if you’re not a pregnant woman, there’s no cause for alarm, right? In most cases, that’s correct. However, researchers still don’t know much about this disease, and there have been a few reports that demonstrate its potential effects in the larger population. The two main sources of concern are:
Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) – This rare, post-infection disorder causes a person’s immune system to attack his or her own nerve cells – leading to muscle weakness and, sometimes, paralysis. GBS symptoms can last weeks to months and while most people recover, some can be permanently paralyzed or even die. Recently, Brazil – one of the countries hit hardest by Zika – has reported an increased number of people affected by GBS. The CDC is collaborating with the Brazil Ministry of Health to determine if Zika is causing this condition.
Sexual transmission – In early February, the Dallas County Health and Human Services department reported that a woman had contracted Zika after sexual contact with a partner who traveled to a high-risk country and developed symptoms. The virus is thought to remain in semen longer than it remains in blood.
Based on this incident, and two other suspected cases of sexual transmission, the CDC recommends that if any man who has traveled to a Zika-affected area has a pregnant partner, they should abstain from sex or use condoms for the duration of the woman’s pregnancy.
The concern about mosquito season
At this point, scientists don’t believe Zika is present in mosquitos in the United States. Most cases here have been associated with travel to affected areas. An updated list of those countries can be found here. But what happens when a non-carrying mosquito bites a person with the Zika virus?
“Our biggest concern is that the virus will take a foothold here in Texas and throughout the United States,” says Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Health℠. “Once the mosquito population gets infected here, it will be hard to break the transmission cycle. The best thing you can do now is limit travel and avoid mosquitos.”
As mosquito season in Texas nears, protect your family against mosquito bites. Here are some tips:
- When you or your family members are outdoors, use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent, following product label instructions and reapply as directed.
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors whenever possible.
- Use air conditioning and window and door screens, and sleep under a mosquito net if needed.
- Check your property and do not allow standing water to accumulate in gutters, bird baths, plant trays, pet dishes and depressions in lawns. Water standing longer than two days is a breeding ground for mosquitos.
- If you or your child develop symptoms, see your doctor.
The CDC also offers tips for how families traveling overseas can avoiding mosquito bites in the in the first place. However, you or your child have traveled to an area affected by Zika and develop symptoms, treatment includes rest, fluids to prevent dehydration, and fever- and pain-reducing medications like acetaminophen.