The Doctor Is In: Zika Virus

Content sponsored and provided by Beaumont Health

The calendar says Winter, but Spring Break is just around the corner and it has many travelers worried about the Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no one should cancel their Spring Break plans to travel, despite the presence of the Zika virus that could be linked to microcephaly.

But the CDC is also telling women who are pregnant "they may not want to go."

Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant are at greatest risk for the adverse effects of the Zika virus.

On Wednesday, join Deena Centofanti and two experts from Beaumont Health as they talk about the risks of the Zika virus.

Beginning at 8:35 a.m. ask your questions in the chat room.

Our Experts:

Dr. Karen Plymel, M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist
Dr. Matthew Sims, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Infectious Disease Research

Live Blog The Doctor Is In: Zika Virus

Mosquitoes carrying the virus are expected to reach the United States sometime this year or early next year, said Christopher Carpenter, M.D., chief of Infectious Disease for Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak.

"For the general healthy person, this does not pose that much of a threat," Dr. Carpenter said. "The big concern is what having the infection means for a pregnant woman and her baby, due to the strong association between Zika and microcephaly."

In Brazil, where Zika virus infections have increased exponentially in the last year, Dr. Carpenter said, there has also been a 20-fold increase in the incidence of microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that has been identified in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. The vast majority of Zika virus infections are transmitted by mosquito. Transmission through unprotected sexual contact has rarely been reported.

Currently, the primary carrier of the virus is a species of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti , found in the southern portion of the United States, including Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Arizona.

The first case of the Zika virus in Michigan was confirmed in February according to Michigan health officials.

A woman from Ingham County contracted the disease while traveling to an area where the disease is commonly transmitted, according to a statement from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Ingham County Health Department.

The four primary symptoms of Zika infection are fever, rash, muscle/joint pain and conjunctivitis, a painful inflammation of the eye.

Within the general population, only 20 percent of those infected actually get sick, and even then, the symptoms are generally mild, though some may suffer a neurologic complication called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The biggest risk right now is in traveling to areas where infection is "endemic," including Mexico, the Caribbean, South America and Brazil, said Matthew Sims, M.D., Ph.D., Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak's director of Infectious Disease Research.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta are currently advising pregnant women to consider postponing travel to areas with Zika virus activity. Pregnant women who cannot postpone visiting affected countries should consult with a travel clinic such InterHealth, offered at Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak, to learn how to reduce the risk of transmission.

"You can protect yourself from mosquitoes reasonably well, including wearing clothing that covers arms and legs, using mosquito repellent found to be safe for pregnant women, sleeping inside mosquito netting at night and staying out of certain areas," Dr. Sims said.

If they experience symptoms of the Zika virus within two weeks of traveling to an affected country, testing should be considered; however, pregnant women should follow-up with their obstetrician after travel to an area with Zika virus transmission, even if they do not have symptoms as the risk of infection remains.

While the general population, for the most part, has little to fear from Zika virus infection, travelers need to be aware and protect themselves from other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue and chikungunya, yellow fever, and malaria. They should take proper precautions, Dr. Carpenter stressed.


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