- Zika is a virus that rarely causes symptoms in healthy people.
- Only about one in five people will have symptoms, including red eyes, fever, headache, rash and joint pain, and these resolve in a few days.
- The most severe infection pattern, called microcephaly (small brain), is seen in babies whose mothers were infected in the first half of pregnancy.
- Research has shown that the virus can infect brain and nerve cells and can sometimes result in temporary paralysis.
- A lot of research is going on in the Longwood Medical area, as well as in other labs, trying to develop vaccines and to understand how the immune system plays a role.
What we don’t know:
- We do not know if the infection is more serious in people who are on immune suppressants after transplantation.
What we do know:
- A mosquito bites an infected person and then passes Zika on when the mosquito bites another person.
- More than 600 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S., almost all in travelers returning from areas like the Caribbean and Central and South America, where there are many more cases.
- Researchers are testing mosquitos in areas of the U.S. to plot the spread of the virus which hasn’t reached New England yet.
- ALWAYS wear insect repellent where there are any mosquitos (this will prevent Zika infection in addition to other mosquito-borne infections such as West Nile Virus, Dengue and Malaria).
- Wear long sleeves and pants when you are going to be in areas with mosquitos.
- If a woman or her partner travelled to Zika-rich areas, the woman should not become pregnant for as long as two to six months after travel.
All of us, including potential organ donors and transplant recipients, should always take precautions against mosquito bites wherever there are mosquitos. Prevention of mosquito bites is the best and only certain way to keep from becoming infected with Zika virus for which there is as yet no treatment or vaccine.
Summer is a great time for outdoor adventures, just be mindful to use insect repellent at all times (daytime too) and have a great time!