Should You Be Concerned About Zika Virus?

Warning sign of Zika virus with Mosquito

The Zika virus has gotten a lot of air time on the news lately, and with the Olympics in Brazil, the odds of infection spreading worldwide may be a bit higher. But here in New Mexico, is Zika something to be worried about? And what precautions should you take?

What is Zika Virus

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that causes flu-like symptoms, including muscle pain, fever, rash, and conjunctivitis. It is also responsible for fetal brain defects and microcephaly in infants whose mothers were infected. It is an epidemic throughout much of South America, including Brazil, and is transmitted by the same type of mosquitoes as carry Dengue fever – so areas of the world susceptible to Dengue are also likely to carry Zika.

Is Zika a Risk to Me?

The population at greatest danger from the virus is pregnant women and those who may become pregnant. Zika virus is responsible for causing birth defects in newborns and can cause lifelong serious problems for children it affects. In adults, it is not as serious, although for people who are HIV+ and immune suppressed, it may pose additional complications or put you at greater risk for secondary infection.

Protecting Yourself

The first confirmed case of Zika virus was found in Santa Fe in March. Since then, there have been a handful more, all from people who had been traveling abroad to areas where Zika virus is active.

There are two species of mosquito in the state capable of transmitting Zika virus, so transmission via insect is possible. Take care to avoid areas of standing water, wear insect repellant and protective clothing, and utilize citronella around the home to keep mosquitoes away. Additionally, Zika virus can be spread through sexual contact, even if the carrier is asymptomatic – yet another reason to practice safe sex, especially if your partner has traveled in areas of active Zika outbreak!

If you have questions or are concerned about the possibility of catching Zika or transmitting it to a partner, you can discuss it with your healthcare professional.