Augusta Heath Doctor Discusses the Zika Virus

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mosquito bites are the most common way the Zika virus is transmitted​Zika (zee-ka) virus has been all over the news recently due to cases in the United States and even Virginia. We sat down with Dr. Allison Baroco, an Infectious Disease Specialist here at Augusta Health to discuss the virus and what you need to know.

How does it spread?

Through animal and insect bites – most common transmission is mosquito bites.

What are the symptoms?

Only 1 in 5 people will show symptoms of the virus. Typical symptoms are mild and can include a fever, headache, red eyes, and body aches.

Who can catch it?

Anyone can contract the Zika virus but those most at risk are pregnant women because it's strongly suspected the virus causes microcephaly, which causes small heads and decreased brain function in newborns.

* It is believed to have the most effect in pregnant women during their first trimester, when many women don't know they are pregnant.

How common is it?

Since 2015, there have been 31 cases of Zika in the United States. All of these cases have been travel-related, meaning the person was bitten or stung while in another country and then traveled home with it in their system. So far, there have been no new cases of people getting the virus while in the United States.

I'm pregnant – What Should I do?

Pregnant women are STRONGLY advised not to travel to regions where Zika has been transmitted. Women of child-bearing age should consider using birth control before and during their travel to affected countries.

* If you are pregnant and have traveled to these areas, consult with your obstetrician to determine if testing is needed.

How do I protect myself from getting the Zika virus?

Avoid traveling to countries Zika is present. However, if you have to travel to a country where Zika has been found, take the following steps to prevent being bitten:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Sleep under a mosquito net if possible
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent and reapply as directed on label

Zika in the U.S.

The virus is spreading at an explosive rate through Central and South America and the Caribbean. It has been reported in 23 countries and territories. Anne Schuchat, the Principal Deputy Director for the Center for Disease Control, said "The Continental United States Zika outbreaks will likely be limited."

* Local transmission may occur in the Southeast, particularly along the Florida Gulf Coast where mosquitoes are more prominent. These areas have also experienced higher transmission of mosquito-borne illnesses in the past, like dengue and chikungunya.

Dr. Allison Baroco practices at Augusta Health Infectious Disease. She specializes in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.