Louisiana doctor gives Zika virus safety tips

Brandie Richardson @B_Lifestyles

     Zika, the mosquito borne virus linked to birth defects, has surfaced in the United States. The first known case of Zika in North America was found last week in Texas from a woman who contracted the virus through a sexual partner who recently traveled to Venezuela.

     The Zika outbreak is heaviest in South America, especially in Brazil where the spike in the number of babies born with microcephaly has skyrocketed. 

     Though Zika is not a deadly virus it does have severe effects on unborn children, causing microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small brain and skull, resulting in early death.

     According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Hospitalization is uncommon and most symptoms last several days to a week.

     There are several different way the virus can be contracted. The most common way it is transmitted is through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya viruses. These mosquitos are aggressive daytime biters and become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus.  The second way to contract it is through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

     Louisiana State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard said that since the virus is a benign disease there currently is not treatment for the virus. Those infected by Zika are encouraged to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration, take acetaminophen to relive fever and pain.

     “With Zika nobody dies,” Ratard said. “Eight out of 10 people that gets infected has no symptoms, they have no idea they are infected. Two out of 10, 20 percent, have fever, pain in the joint, maybe a small rash, nothing extraordinary.”

     Ratard added that the health department is preparing people for a possible outbreak by educating citizens, working with mosquito control and making sure everyone knows about mosquito control precautions.

     “We work with mosquito control so that they know if we have a case that is important somewhere, we let them know so they can increase mosquito control activity,” Ratard added.

     Those traveling to countries where the virus is heavily found are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, stay in places with air conditioning, sleep under a mosquito bed net if overseas or outside, use Environmental Protection Agency insect repellents and treat clothing and gear with permethrin.