What To Do If You Have Zika, Because Community Health Is Everyone's Responsibility
The Zika virus is expected to spread to the southern United States this summer, and although the scale of transmission is projected to be small, and localized mainly in Florida and Texas, that's of little comfort to those who live in the area. Most parents or prospective parents all know by now how to avoid infection (I hope), but nothing's foolproof. The first thing you should do if you think you have Zika is, of course, go to the doctor. While there is no cure, it's important to confirm that it's actually Zika, as opposed to something else that could be treated, and it's also important for vector tracking. According to Tech Insider, the Zika test isn't FDA-approved yet, since it can't differentiate between Zika and other, similar diseases, but the test combined with a interview about travel and sexual history can help pinpoint a diagnosis.
As of June 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 756 cases of Zika in the United States. One was transmitted in a lab, 11 were sexually transmitted, and the rest were acquired abroad. The CDC also announced on June 16 that they are monitoring 234 pregnant U.S. women with Zika, according to the Washington Post. Three U.S. women have given birth to babies with Zika-related birth defects, and three more lost or terminated pregnancies due to the effects of Zika. However, it was reported in February that two U.S. Zika patients gave birth to healthy babies, so all hope is not lost; this just means that it's very important for a doctor to closely monitor the pregnancy.
U.S. Zika patients who aren't pregnant aren't off the hook completely. The CDC is currently investigating a suspected link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very rare condition of the nervous system that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis in adults. Of the 756 U.S. cases of Zika, it's thought to have caused Guillain-Barré syndrome in three patients, which is less than 0.4 percent. The larger concern for non-pregnant Zika patients is their ability to spread the disease to others.
Zika can be sexually transmitted, so it's important to use a condom if you have Zika, or if it's possible that you have Zika (for example, if you traveled to a Zika-affected region, or had sex with someone who did). Zika can stay in semen for months, so condoms should be used even after symptoms subside (the CDC recommends using a condom for eight weeks after symptoms subside). It's not yet known whether women can sexually transmit Zika.
What's worse is that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the Zika virus, migrates to the U.S. in the summer, so if a Zika patient in Texas is bitten by Aedes aegypti, that bug could go on to spread it all over town. That means that just because you've been infected doesn't mean you can prop open your front door and skip the mosquito repellent. In fact, it's even more important to avoid being bitten by a mosquito if you do contract Zika, because rather than risking just your own health, you're now putting the whole community at risk of infection. The good news is that Zika won't stay in your system forever, and the mosquitoes will eventually migrate once the weather turns cold, so you're not stuck in your house forever. But, for the good of society, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to hole up inside for a while, or at least wear plenty of bug spray. Your neighbors will thank you.