Chances are by now you’ve heard about the Zika virus. It’s a virus that, much like yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue, is spread by mosquitos. At first, it seemed the greatest danger of contracting the virus was to travel to areas of the caribbean and Brazil where the virus was spreading quickly. Now, with the number of cases reported in Florida on the rise, we need protect ourselves from mosquito bites here at home, too.
At Miami International Airport, the signs are everywhere warning visitors about the virus. I took this picture after arriving back home from a trip abroad. So, what do we need to know about the virus? The most common symptoms are fever, rash, body aches, joint pain and in some cases conjunctivitis . Unlike some of the other viruses spread by mosquitos, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat the infection. I spoke with Dr. Otto M. Ramos, Director of Infectious Diseases at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital about ways to protect ourselves and our children from Zika.
While Zika is mostly transmitted through mosquito bites, it can also be sexually transmitted and there is a risk of contracting the virus through blood transfusions. Pregnant women are of special concern since Zika has been found to be responsible for causing severe defects in unborn children, including microcephaly, which leaves babies with abnormally small heads and often with brains that do not develop properly.
Should you be concerned that your child has contracted Zika, Dr. Ramos suggests you have your child tested as soon as possible. At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, they are prepared to diagnose, treat and assist patients and their families.