By: Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.
It’s true, now that the weather is getting cooler, many locations will finally get a break from Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. However, we Midwesterners like to escape the cold and travel to the tropics, so this is a reminder to pack insect repellent spray! The following are answers to some of the most common questions asked.
Where are the current outbreaks?
The best source of information is the CDC website where they have travel notices and the latest updates. Currently the only area in the U.S. with active spread from mosquitoes is in South Florida, near Miami. In fact, on October 13, CDC expanded it’s warning area where there are new Zika cases. Click here for specific advice for people traveling to South Florida.
What are the symptoms?
The vast majority of people who become infected don’t have any symptoms at all. However, if symptoms do develop, they include the following symptoms:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Eye irritation
Symptoms typically last for 2-7 days after an incubation period of about 2 weeks.
How is it transmitted?
Mosquito bites are the initial mode of infection. We now know that individuals can then transmit Zika to others via sexual activity long after the initial infection from the mosquito. There have also been a couple rare cases where it is unclear how the person contracted the virus.
How long is someone contagious?
There is currently research underway to determine this. The recommendations are that people who have traveled to an area with known active Zika abstain from sexual activity for at least 3 months, preferably 6 months if there was known infection confirmed by laboratory testing.
How is it diagnosed?
The Zika virus can be detected in blood or urine. However, there are a limited number of labs that perform this test and all have to be sent and reported via the Illinois Department of Health.
How do I prevent getting infected?
Insect repellent with at least 25% DEET (not for children under 2) is best and wearing light colored clothing helps prevent mosquito bites. Staying in cooler air conditioned areas also is advised. Condoms do protect against sexual transmission.
Is there any treatment?
There is currently no cure or medication for Zika infection and it will be several years before a vaccine is developed. If you have traveled to an area with active Zika cases it is recommended you call your physician with any specific questions.
Feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have concerning the Zika virus, and I will make it a priority to get back to you!
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades and now. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine. Read her previous post on new patient care models.