No this is not as scary as you might be lead to believe. In the summer edition of NIH’s Medline Plus, a FREE health magazine that is published quarterly by the leading scientific research center in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH center for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), discussed the truth behind the Zika virus so many of us are scared of.
Right now, there is no real worry about this virus in the United States. All individuals in the states who have gotten the virus have gotten it while traveling abroad. So as long as you are staying in the US right now you have nothing to worry about. The symptoms are minimal, similar to a cold, with red eyes, fever, rashes, and joint pain and even they go away.
When you should worry about Zika is if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or are the sexual partner of someone who is pregnant or trying to become pregnant. When a woman is pregnant and is exposed to the virus, either by direct exposure to the mosquito or by having unprotected sex with a partner who has the virus, there is as high as a 1/3 chance that the baby will get birth defects. Some of these defects include abnormally small head formation, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.
NIAID is currently working on developing a vaccine which may be opening to a larger clinical trial in early 2017. But there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself, unborn child, and your family if you are concerned about the Zika virus.
The mosquito responsible for spreading this virus is the same as the one for malaria and yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, and can be repelled by most bug repellents on the market. If you are pregnant it is recommended that you not travel out of the country during pregnancy. Similarly, if you are trying to get pregnant, it is not recommended that you or your partner leave the country to travel.
If you do leave the country, make sure to use bug repellent when you return too. If you have been exposed to the virus while traveling, maintaining using repellent when you return will reduce the chances of a mosquito taking the virus from you to spread it further. Be sure to also use condoms when having sex after you or your partner has returned from traveling to prevent the spread as well. Yes, if you didn’t get it yet, this is a sexually transmitted disease at this point.
If you are looking to use a natural bug repellent, consider using The Dancing Herbalist’s. I traveled through Ecuador last summer and used the repellent the entire time, protecting myself from getting bit from Ades aegypti potentially carrying malaria and yellow fever, and I feel comfortable recommending it to you as well.