The latest health-care concern is the rapidly spreading Zika virus. While primarily limited to South America, health officials are worried that it will eventually arrive in the United States.
On Monday, Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, announced that “… the situation meets the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”
The California Department of Public Health issued an announcement Monday that re-affirmed that “As of Jan. 29, 2016, there are six confirmed cases of Zika virus in California, all of which were contracted when traveling in other countries with Zika virus outbreaks in 2013 (1), 2014 (3) and 2015 (2).”
Brazil is the current locus of the worries. But Barbara Cole, Riverside County director of Disease Control in Riverside County, confirmed that there are no known cases of Zika here.
The virus is transmitted from a mosquito bite, similar to transmission of the West Nile virus.
The Centers for Disease Control has advised travelers to take precautions. Visit www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html for the current list of areas of mosquito habitats. This includes popular countries such as Mexico and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In general, from Brazil north in South America, southern Mexico and the Caribbean have reported cases of Zika from the mosquito.
According to the CDC, “No locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers.” However, a number of Zika cases were reported in Puerto Rica.
CDC says about 20 percent of the population infected from the Zika virus will experience some illness, normally mild, including a fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis (red eyes), which usually pass in less than week.
No vaccine is available for the Zika virus.
The concern is for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
Currently, the health community is concerned that the virus may cause microcephaly, where the baby’s head is smaller than expected. Proof of this consequence is evolving, but CDC urges women in these groups to take precautions when traveling outside the U.S.
The CDPH also recommends pregnant women in any trimester consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is ongoing.
Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas need to talk to their health-care provider first and follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.