Health in the News: Zika Virus

Maraba Roznik, Editor

Mosquitoes are pesky, annoying insects that buzz in your ears, and leave you with a persistent itch after they bite. As much as that sucks, their bites are not the worst part, unfortunately. The worst part is that mosquitoes can carry and spread harmful and deadly diseases.

Different species of mosquitoes can spread different types of viruses which causes sicknesses.  One of those viruses is Zika.First discovered in Uganda in 1947, the Zika Virus, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, has recently caused a greater outbreak on a worldwide scale.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus was mainly found in less developed countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands prior to 2015. However, in May of 2015, cases of the Zika Virus was found in Brazil, and was alerted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Developing countries are affected the most by epidemic and harmful diseases such as the Zika Virus due to their less advanced healthcare systems.

According to Arrowhead’s school nurse Kristi Kirk, “Healthcare systems in the third world countries is a challenge due to the cost and lack of supplies related to their economic conditions.”

CDC says that 20% of people infected with the Zika Virus will get sick two to seven  days after being bitten by the mosquito. The mild symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis, which, according to Mayo Clinic, is an inflammation of the outer membrane and the inner eyelid, causing one’s eyes to turn red with irritation. A more common name for this highly contagious condition is Pinkeye.

Due to the Zika Virus’ mild symptoms, CDC concludes that many people infected with the disease do not realize they have it, and mistake it for a common illness.

As harmless as this virus may sound, it can be detrimental to pregnant women. According to CDC, there have been reports of serious birth defects to the brain linked to the Zika Virus. One of those defects is microcephaly, which causes the head of a baby to be abnormally small for his or her age or gender.

Currently, there are no vaccines or cures for the Zika Virus. However, those infected can treat the symptoms. CDC says that getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and taking Tylenol to relieve the pain and fever can be helpful. CDC warns against taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines.

Arrowhead has health programs and advice for preventing the spread of illnesses at school. These suggestions help combat common diseases such as colds and the flu.

Kirk says, “The most important thing students should do to stay healthy is to wash their hand frequently and prior to eating. The second most helpful things all students should do to prevent the spread of infections is not to share food or drinks.”

Kirk gives a list of things to avoid that can come into contact with the mouth. This list includes: cosmetics, water bottles, utensils, toothbrushes, and mouth guards.

Although these suggestions cannot cure the Zika Virus or fight its symptoms, they can help students stay healthier, and protect them from more common diseases.

To get more information on the Zika Virus, the symptoms, helpful treatments, and countries to try to avoid for vacation, you can check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here.