Zika Virus: Best Get Prepared

The Zika virus isn't new. But, it is becoming seen in some new places and you aren't going to like what you see.

Aedes mosquito

Image credit: CDC/J. Gathany

You know those pesky mosquitoes that annoy you when you are grillin' out… or working a wreck in the soggy median of a highway?

Those mosquito's have a history of bringing people such memorable maladies -- such as dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and chikungunya.

Add the Zika virus to that list.

In Brazil, apparent "ground zero" of Zika outbreaks, doctors suspect a correlation between Zika and Guillain-Barré (which can lead to paralysis).

They also see correlations between Zika and thousands of microcephalic newborns -- born wirh an abnormally small head and brain.

There are expert opinions that Zika is not a major concern in the US. Still, EMS Providers can ask travel and mosquito exposure history questions during patient encounters and pass on the pertainent details at handoff.

Take steps not to get bitten, yourself.

Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Jamaica have urged women to postpone pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised U.S. women who are pregnant to avoid traveling to those 24 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Central and South America that have local transmission.

Some dozen cases on Zika (believed contracted elsewhere) have been identified in the US.

Previously, outbreaks of Zika occurred among small populations in the Pacific islands. Corresponding unusual kinds of birth defects were not immediately noticed. But, when Brazil began noting the increased prevalence of microcephaly last October, French Polynesia took a look back at their 2013-2014 Zika outbreak impacting more than 30,000 people. An increase in microcephaly cases and of Guillain-Barré was found.

Zika Virus -- Key Facts
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis.
  • These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
  • Source: World Health Organization (WHO) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/ Accessed 1/28/2016

    Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. [1] The same mosquito also transmits 3 other vector-borne diseases -- dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever – across tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are headache, muscle and joint pain, mild fever, rash, and inflammation of the underside of the eyelid. To lower the risk of being infected with Zika virus: use insect repellent; cover as much of the body as possible with long, light-coloured clothing; empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water to remove places mosquitoes can breed; and sleep under mosquito nets.

    Download a CDC handout with suggestions on how individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites (below).


    1. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/ accessed 1/28/2016