Zika Virus FAQ: Pregnant Women, Families in Coastal Georgia Urged to Take Precautions

Aug 11, 2016

Infection Prevention and Control Manager Answers Zika FAQs

While there have been no confirmed cases of Zika in Chatham and surrounding counties, it’s fair to say the mosquito-borne virus is on a lot of people’s minds after mosquito-borne cases of the disease were found in Miami recently.

And it should be, says Lori Kinder, St. Joseph’s/Candler Infection Prevention and Control Manager.

Lori Kinder, St. Joseph's/Candler Infection Prevention and Control Manager“There’s no reason for panic but certainly for caution,” Kinder said.

The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected Aedes species mosquitos that are aggressive daytime biters.  Mosquitoes can become infected when they bite infected persons and can then spread the Zika virus to other persons they subsequently bite. The virus also can be sexually transmitted. An infected pregnant woman can pass the virus to her fetus during pregnancy. 

The first case of Zika was identified in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947, but within the last year and a half, cases have emerged in the Americas and the Caribbean. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since Aug. 3 there have been 1,825 cases of Zika reported in the United States, with the majority of those cases being travel-associated. However, since June, approximately 15 cases of Zika have been confirmed to have originated in a community near Miami. The numbers are being updated continually.

In total, the CDC reports 322 cases of locally-acquired or travel-associated cases of Zika in Florida. Across the border, Georgia has reported 42 cases, and case numbers are being updated continually.

Here are some FAQs regarding Zika:

What are the symptoms of Zika?
The symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. The symptoms are usually mild and most may not even realize they have the virus. Only one out of five with the virus develops symptoms, which can last for two to seven days.

Where has the virus been seen?
The majority of Zika cases have been reported in South America and the Caribbean. There have been 42 cases reported in Georgia according to the CDC, and those were travel associated. The only mosquito-borne cases to date have been in Miami.

Who is most at risk?
Pregnant women are most at risk for complications from the Zika virus. Zika passes from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause a  birth defect of the  brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects in babies. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected. This birth defect can result in seizures, intellectual disabilities and developmental delays, among other problems. 

Is there a cure or treatment for Zika?
There is no specific treatment and there is currently no vaccine. The best thing is prevention.

How can pregnant women prevent Zika?
Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should avoid travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. In addition, pregnant women should be screened at each prenatal visit. Your doctor should be talking to you about recent travel by you and your partner.

If you are pregnant, cover up when you go outside, use bug spray and avoid mosquito-prone areas such as tall grass and standing water, and to talk to your doctor about safe bug sprays to use during pregnancy.  

The mosquito that carries the virus tends to bite during the daylight hours, unlike most mosquitoes.

If you are sexually active and your partner could be at risk of carrying or getting the virus, abstain from sex or use barrier protection.

How long does the Zika virus stay in your system?
During the first week of infection, the Zika virus can be detected in the blood and is capable of being spread from an infected person to a mosquito that feeds on that person or to another person through sexual transmission. Typically symptoms don’t last longer than two to seven days, and again most people experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Unborn children of infected pregnant women are the biggest ones to be concerned about.

If a female were to contract Zika, would it be safe for her to get pregnant in the future?
Yes. The CDC is currently recommending women wait at least eight weeks after symptom onset or exposure to try and get pregnant. In men with Zika virus, the recommendation is to wait at least six months after symptom onset or exposure. Women planning pregnancy should talk to their doctors before traveling or before their male partner travels.

What are some tips for everyone to avoid mosquito bites?
The mosquitoes known to carry Zika are common in this area, so it’s important for everyone to be preventive. These mosquitoes can bite outdoors or indoors and mostly bite during the daytime. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use an EPA-registered insect repellent; cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats; and avoid woody and brushy areas with high grass, brush, leaves and standing water.

As a parent, should I be extra cautious of my children getting Zika?
Children are just as susceptible to Zika as adults. They could experience the same mild symptoms, but no long-term effects. However, children tend to have a stronger immune system and will most likely fight off the symptoms faster than adults.  


Helpful links from the Georgia Department of Health Coastal Health District:

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