Turn on the news and you’re bound to see a story about the Zika Virus and its spread across countries and continents. But how prevalent is the Zika virus in Oregon? What are the means of transmission? Is a vaccine in the works? We know you have many questions, so the staff at Woodburn Pediatrics has gathered the latest, most up-to-date data on the virus and its status in our state so you can be an informed Oregonian, making the best choices for you and your family.
What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is an infection that is spread to people by mosquitoes, and has reached predominance in South America, Central America, and certain islands in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with a person who is infected, even if they are not yet showing symptoms.
Only 1 in 5 people who are infected will show symptoms and get sick; the virus takes 3-14 incubation days after infection to become a full-blown illness. The illness is typically mild and lasts for a week. Zika symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache, body aches, and red/itchy eyes.
Zika Virus and Pregnancy
The main concern with Zika is for pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant in the near future. The Zika virus affects babies born to mothers who have been infected with the illness, and causes severe health issues. The most common birth defect is microcephaly, which causes a baby’s head to be significantly smaller than expected, usually due to abnormal brain development.
To avoid a Zika pregnancy, doctors recommend waiting at least 8 weeks before trying to become pregnant after you or your partner has returned from an area where there is Zika. The virus does not infect a baby who is conceived after the virus has cleared the body. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends against pregnant women traveling to areas where the virus is active.
There is no vaccine to prevent the virus. Health officials say that if you’re traveling to a country affected by the virus, the best method of prevention is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. You can protect yourself by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, by using mosquito spray, and by sleeping under a mosquito net. Additionally, it’s recommended that people use condoms or other barriers to prevent the virus being transmitted sexually. You can view a Zika map here to see which countries are most affected.
Zika Virus in Oregon
As of August 2016, limited local transmission has been reported in the continental United States. No cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Oregon; according to the CDC, three Oregonians were infected with the virus after traveling to Polynesia in 2014 and 2015, but they have recovered fully. The mosquitoes known to carry the virus are not found in Oregon, and are closely monitored by health officials to ensure the species does not invade our state.
The Zika virus is a relatively new concern in the western hemisphere, but this infection has quickly become a major concern for scientists and healthcare professionals alike because there is yet no vaccine and it can cause severe birth defects in children born to infected mothers. Prevention is the best means of avoiding the virus, as is staying well-informed about new developments.
If you have questions about how the Zika virus affects you and your family or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us today at Woodburn Pediatric Clinic.