Update – Feb. 5: Sexual transmission of Zika has been reported from a person who had traveled to a Zika-endemic area to someone who had never been in an area with Zika virus. Learn more.
The recent news stories about Zika virus have understandably caused a lot of concern. With the outbreak widespread through South American and Central American countries, and predictions that it will make its way to the United States, many are on alert. Much of the fear stems from the possible link between Zika and an increase in microcephaly, a neurological condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small skulls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even issued travel warnings to countries where Zika is rampant.
Remember a few things
As the situation keeps developing, it’s important to remember a few things:
- The link between Zika and microcephaly has not been definitively proven. Studies are still ongoing to prove that association. In Brazil, for instance, most of the babies with microcephaly do not test positive for Zika with currently available tests. The condition could be related to Zika, or be caused by Zika virus in combination with other infections or a genetic predisposition.
- Zika itself is a mild disease in all people who get it. It causes a fever, rash and red eyes. Most people do not even know they have it.
- Wisconsin likely won’t be a Zika hot zone. The chances of Zika having a big presence locally are not high. There would have to be a lot of people in Wisconsin who already have Zika, then a bunch of mosquitos biting them and then transmitting it to other people.
When mosquito season does come again, the best way to protect yourself is to take the usual steps to ward off bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and shoes. For a full list of ways to avoid mosquito bites, visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is committed to comprehensive and specialized medical care for children and youth with chronic and acute infectious disease.
Learn more about Peter Havens, MD, MS.