On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Zika virus was found in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's the first official territory in the United States to report a case of the Zika virus in a person who did not recently travel to a Zika-affected country. According to reports, the patient — a 42-year-old woman who lives on the island of St. Croix — did not contract the virus in another country.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. territory's health department has been distributing mosquito bite prevention kits for free (and, presumably, will continue to do so, especially in the wake of this news).
While many who contract Zika virus will exhibit no symptoms, those who do should expect a low grade fever, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, rash, and — possibly – conjunctivitis. (Similar to those associated with other mosquito-borne illness, dengue and chikungunya, but generally milder and less severe.) However, symptomatic or not, the virus is extremely dangerous for pregnant women, as it has been linked to microcephaly, a neurological disorder which causes infants to be born with unusually small heads and results in brain damage, serious developmental problems, and even death.
That said, what many do not know is that the Zika virus has been around since the 1940s. Though it didn't become a pandemic until just last year. (According to HealthMap.org, prior to 2007, there were only 14 known cases of the infection in medical literature.) Now, 21 countries have confirmed cases of the virus: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, the Virgin Island, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
For that reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an official warning for pregnant women traveling to countries affected by Zika:
[The] CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites...mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
If you're worried about toxic chemicals don't be. According to the CDC, almost all insect repellents are safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months when used correctly. These include those containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535. However, they noted, those products which contain oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used by anyone under the age of three. Pregnant women should take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites and should talk with their doctor if they plan on traveling.
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