Facts about the Zika Virus and its recent outbreak

The recent Zika Virus outbreak remains a threat to the United States. The local Public Health Office at Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care is staying up to date with the progression of the virus and offers the following advice to anyone traveling to a warmer climate.
“While we may not be at high risk right now in northeast Iowa with our cold climate, many people escape to a warm weather getaway to destinations such as the Caribbean where this disease is becoming more prevalent,” states Sheryl Darling-Mooney, RN and Public Health Supervisor at Veterans Memorial Hospital. “Being knowledgeable about your destination will help you be better prepared to enjoy your trip safely. Utilize reputable websites such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health, as well as your healthcare provider in providing information to remain safe.”
The following is a list of facts concerning this virus provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

• Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread Chikungunya and dengue.
- Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
   = It is possible that Zika virus could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. This mode of transmission is being investigated.
   = To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding.
   = Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported, however, this is rare.

• The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are not established in Iowa.
   = Mosquito surveillance has been ongoing in Iowa for about 45 years.
   = There is no indication that Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus are established mosquito populations in our state. Neither Aedes aegypti nor Aedes albopictus are well-adapted to our states climate (neither adult mosquitoes nor eggs will survive our winters).
   = So based upon what we know about transmission of the Zika virus and the populations of mosquitos in our state, the real risk to Iowans is when they travel to Zika-affected areas of the world.

• The main threat of Zika virus is to pregnant Iowa women traveling to countries where Zika transmission is ongoing.
- There is evidence Zika may cause microcephaly (or small head) in the fetus.
- Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Women trying to become pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
- The CDC is currently recommending that, if you are pregnant and your male sexual partner has traveled to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, you should abstain from sex or use condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal and oral sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- The most current travel information regarding Zika may be found on the CDC’s website at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

• Zika is not a virus like the influenza virus. It is not transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or by touching an object previously touched by someone who is infected.
- There is no vaccine for Zika virus and there is no treatment for the illness.

• Symptoms of Zika are typically mild and severe illness is rare.
- About one in five people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.
- The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
- Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and deaths are rare.
- There is some question whether Zika can cause Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare syndrome that can cause weakness and/or paralysis. This is being investigated by CDC.
For more information locally, call the Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care Department at 568-5660.