Most people who get the Zika virus have no symptoms, which means they won’t even know they’ve become infected. Only about 20 percent of people who are infected experience symptoms, which are generally mild, including fever, rash, joint aches and red eyes. These symptoms usually last only a few days to a week. In severe cases, weakness may occur, which should be evaluated by a provider.
Zika virus is not a new disease. The first case actually was documented in Uganda in 1947, and Zika was officially recognized as a disease in 1952. About 80 percent of people who get infected have no symptoms. Those who become ill typically experience a brief illness, with fever, rash, red eyes and muscle aches. Currently there is no antibiotic or medicine that treats Zika virus infection. In order to decrease the symptoms, get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration and take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve fever and pain.
At present, there is no vaccine to protect humans against Zika virus infection. However, our partners at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) are working with the Wistar Institute and Inovio Pharmaceuticals to develop a Zika vaccine.
Anyone worried about how Zika could impact their family should avoid areas where the disease is spread locally by mosquito bites. This includes South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and South Florida. A complete updated listing of areas where Zika virus is active can be found on the CDC website.
The most serious consequences of Zika virus infection occur in women who become infected while pregnant, which can result in a wide range of severe fetal abnormalities, including microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads that can cause physical and mental disabilities. Concerned women who believe they are at risk should contact their medical provider.
Zika prevention kits for pregnant women have been assembled and can be obtained in Lancaster at:
SE Lancaster Health Services, 625 S. Duke St., Lancaster
Community Action Program of Lancaster County, 601 S. Queen St., Lancaster