Believed to be more harmful than originally thought, federal and state health officials are saying that the Zika virus in NJ could be a bigger threat than you think. If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, it seems that the Zika virus is everywhere…including New Jersey. It’s officially the newest health scare.
About the Zika Virus
According to the CDC, Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito; many people might not realize they have been infected.
And it’s not just mosquito-borne; it can also be passed among humans via sexual contact. A recent discovery found that men, who are now known to transmit the disease through sex, seem to retain the virus in their sperm. Since symptoms are so mild, if present at all, many carriers of the virus may pass it along without realizing they were infected. As with women, men often don’t know they have the disease. While the virus may leave their bloodstream in under two weeks, new research indicates Zika can remain in a man’s sperm for up to six months.
The Link Between Zika Virus and Microcephaly
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly – unusually small heads and often damaged brains- in babies, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Protect Against the Zika Virus in NJ
The most effective way to protect yourself from the Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites.
- Prep your home. Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Just one tablespoon of water can serve as a mosquito breeding ground and produce up to 300 mosquitoes.
- Pick the right mosquito repellent. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Importantly, don’t forget to spritz your feet and ankles. The mosquito that carries Zika virus, the Aedes variety, has a particular attraction to feet.
- Repel with your clothes. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect from mosquito bites and protect your head with a hat and sunglasses.
- Travel smart. The best way to avoid Zika virus is to avoid affected areas. Consider postponing travel to affected countries. If your trip is already scheduled, check options with your airline. Three major domestic carriers—United, Delta and American Airlines—are allowing qualified passengers to rebook their trips without cancellation fees.
The mosquitoes were once thought to be a threat to only the southern areas of the United States, but the CDC maps shows the mosquitoes reaching as far as New York City, New Jersey, southern Pennsylvania and California. For an updated list of areas in the United States with the virus, visit the CDC website.
eMedical Urgent Care
Like most diseases, certain people are more susceptible to the Zika virus than others, such as the elderly, sick and young children. If you have been bitten by a mosquito and experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek medical attention immediately. Be sure to tell your physician if and where you’ve traveled, as there are specialized blood tests that can detect Zika or other related viruses.