Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center has partnered with Norton Healthcare to advise the public about the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an “international health emergency.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued warnings about the Zika virus, which spreads through mosquito bites and has been primarily reported in Central and South America, as well as parts of the Caribbean.
However, because many of the locations in which Zika has been reported are popular vacation destinations, there is concern regarding travellers’ bringing the virus back to the United States, according to a Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center (TLRMC) news release.
As of Wednesday, April 6, according to the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov, 346 travel-associated cases of Zika have been reported in the United States, and three of those cases were reported in Kentucky; however, the United States has seen no cases of locally acquired Zika reported.
“The important thing to note is that, at this time, this is an evolving situation with Zika,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare. “The CDC and health officials around the world are working together to keep everyone informed, as well as take precautions when it comes to the Zika virus.”
Currently, the most serious health concern regarding the Zika virus is that infection in pregnant women causes birth defects, specifically microcephaly, the release states.
With that in mind, the CDC is recommending pregnant women postpone travel to any area reporting an outbreak.
If travel is essential to these areas, pregnant women should take precautions not to be bitten, including the use of EPA-registered insect repellent, an opinion shared by a local healthcare professional.
“The Zika virus can impact pregnancy during any trimester, so precautions are recommended,” said Dr. Wendy Lee, OB/GYN at TLRMC. “I tell my patients to avoid all unnecessary travel, if possible. If pregnant women do travel, they can and should use an insect repellent that is EPA-registered and use it according to product guidelines on the label. They should also plan to wear clothing that covers exposed skin, such as long sleeves and pants.”
The Zika virus also can be transmitted sexually from men to women, even when the man does not have symptoms, according to the TLRMC release.
The CDC is recommending that male sex partners of pregnant women abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms for the remainder of the pregnancy if they have traveled to an endemic area of the world.
The CDC offers additional recommendations and information for pregnant women on www.cdc.gov.
Currently, it appears that only one in five individuals infected with the Zika virus will develop symptoms, most of which will be mild.
The main symptoms can include fever; rash characterized by a flat, red area of skin that is covered with small confluent bumps; joint pain; and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
“These symptoms will appear within three to 12 days from the time of infection,” Schulz said.
To learn more about the Zika virus from the CDC, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/zika.
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.