Zika Virus: What the UMD campus should know

Last Tuesday, the CDC confirmed the first known case of the Zika virus transmitted sexually in Dallas County, according to a Dallas County Health and Human Services press release.

Beforehand, the CDC only speculated that the virus could be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is generally transmitted by a mosquito bite.

The Zika virus infected the patient in Dallas County after the person came in sexual contact with another individual who had come back from a country that has reported active transmission, the DCHHS press release stated.

In May 2015, the virus was brought to the Americas with the first known cases coming from Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization stated. As of Jan. 30, the virus’ vector, the Aedes mosquito, is present in 26 countries and territories within the Americas.

The CDC described the illness as mild with common symptoms that include a fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis lasting several days to a week. Reports in Brazil found that the virus could lead to Gullain-Barré syndrome.

Pregnant women have been specifically warned to protect themselves against the disease. Infected pregnant woman have been reported to give birth to infants affected by microcephaly, a birth defect where the head and brain are smaller than typical. With the rise of babies born with microcephaly, a connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly seems to be likely however it cannot be confirmed yet.

Junior economics major Rachel Carroll, is aware of how quickly the virus has spread and the potential risks through news outlets. She thinks that most of campus is generally conscious about Zika by now.

Carroll believes this issue should be talked about so students are more aware of the logistics and potential risks of the virus, especially students who want to travel abroad, but they shouldn’t buy into a media scare.

“I think that the issue that it can cause birth defects in babies is a big issue but I also think the media makes money off of this so if the media can make it a big deal they will.”

On Monday, the Director-General of the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for the virus. Zika is said to rarely cause hospitalization but because of the potential risks linked to Gullain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly in infants, the outbreak is a worldly concern.

If you plan on traveling abroad to a virus-infected area or have any questions related to the virus, contact the University Health Center (301.314.8180)

Last Thursday, the University Health Center released a statement regarding the virus which you can read below:

Greetings from the University Health Center,
As you may have read or seen on the news recently, there is currently an outbreak of a mosquito-transmitted virus called Zika in a number oflocations around the world.
With spring break just around the corner—a time when many of our community members travel all over the world—I’m writing to provide you with the latest information on the Zika virus that may inform your plans for travelling.
If you are planning travel to areas affected by Zika (a map is available here: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo), please consider the following advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:    
  • Travelers to areas where Zika is present should protect themselves from mosquito bites.  The mosquitos spreading Zika bite mostly during the daytime. Additional information and tips on mosquito bite prevention are available here: http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_travelers.pdf
  • Pregnant women, and women who are trying to become pregnant, should consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
We urge you to take all possible precautions, as there is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.
Comprehensive information about Zika virus is available on the CDC Zika Virus Resource Page at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.  
In Health,
David McBride, MD
Director, University Health Center 

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