The Zika virus. It's been at the forefront of so many conversations these days. Mothers worried about their little ones. Pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant especially. Politicians, scientists, medical professionals. Even some Olympic athletes, people who have worked their whole lives to get to the Olympics, are considering changing their plans out of a very real Zika fear. While it's obviously important to avoid the Zika virus, it's equally important to educate yourself about the telltale symptoms of Zika — like how to identify a Zika rash.
A rash is one of the known symptoms of Zika, an airborne virus spread through the bite of an Aedes variety mosquito. The virus can also be sexually transmitted by an infected male, and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby in utero. While the CDC reports that the virus is usually mild in healthy adults, it can cause serious neurological defects in unborn children like microcephaly (a condition when the brain does not grow to full size) and Guillan-Barre syndrome (an illness that weakens the nervous system, which could cause muscle weakness and/or paralysis). The symptoms are similar to two other airborne viruses spread by the Aedes mosquito, dengue fever and chikungunya, and can present themselves to an infected person as being almost flu-like. So how does one tell the difference between a regular rash and a Zika rash?
According to a report by NBC News, an unidentified man returned from a holiday in Puerto Rico in February and began noticing some changes in his body after three days or so. Dr. Amit Garg of Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York was one of the physicians caring for the patient. He told NBC that the patient was experiencing a headache and lethargy first and foremost. After three days, he noticed a rash.
On day three, the patient noted the eruption to be most pronounced on the knees and feet, and he described burning pain of the feet. He developed joint pains involving the wrists, knees, and ankles on day four.
The rash presents with raised, red bumps and can feel itchy and uncomfortable, similar to measles, in some cases, or scarlet fever in others. The rash often starts on the face and spreads, but every patient is different. The rash will disappear once the virus has healed, so infected patients shouldn't worry about long-term effects.
So if you're experiencing a rash that:
- Looks red and bumpy (or red spots that are flat with some bumps)
- Appears to be made up of individual bumps that are grouped tightly together so they look like one large rash
- Seems to have appeared out of nowhere
- Is itchy and irritating
... consider getting in touch with your medical professional to be tested for the Zika virus.
Otherwise, prevention is clearly the best policy. Avoid standing water, use an insect repellent with DEET this summer, and wear loose, light colored clothing with long sleeves.