The Zika Virus has been in the news over the past few months and is of great concern, especially, to pregnant women and those trying to conceive.
A few weeks ago, the experts at Hamilton Health Sciences hosted a Twitter party to answer some pressing questions about the virus, and they were kind enough to send us some information to share with you. Below you’ll find some of the most popular questions and answers.
Q: I am going to Cuba next week. What precautions should I take while in Cuba to avoid (if I can) the Zika Virus?
A: Cuba is not officially reporting cases yet, but it’s just a matter of time (if it is not already circulating). Precautions include: avoid exposure to mosquitos, use repellent, cover exposed skin (long sleeved shirts/pants, hats) & sleep in A/C screened rooms.
Pregnancy, Conception and Birth Defects
Q: Does previous Zika infection pose a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies?
A: It’s unknown. There’s insufficient evidence to very carefully know what the exact risk of Zika Virus is to pregnant women. It’s clear there are well-documented cases with Zika being linked to microcephaly, however, how often this occurs is unknown.
Q: How long should you wait to get pregnant after returning from Brazil?
A: There’s a lot of uncertainty – Zika can stay in the blood for about a week, but Zika has been found in semen longer than that. It’s best to speak to your healthcare provider who will ask you about any symptoms or signs of Zika.
Q: Is the pesticide theory plausible when looking at cases of microcephaly, or is Zika much more likely?
A: Zika and other causes are more likely. There’s no evidence to substantiate pesticides.
Q: Does Zika thrive only in tropical environments? Can it sustain itself in Canada?
A: Zika Virus spreads where Aedes mosquitos breed. Right now, transmission is occurring in Central/South America, Pacific Islands, Cape Verde.
Q: How can people protect themselves against Zika?
A: If you’re pregnant, current recommendations are not to travel to Zika outbreak areas: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/
Q: Do you recommend using repellent on young children travelling to the Caribbean? ‘Kids’ spray is 5% DEET – is that worse than the risk?
A: Yes, this is recommended. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old:http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/
Signs and Symptoms
Q: What happens if an adult gets Zika from their travels? What are the symptoms to look for?
A: Signs and symptoms include: fever, rash, headache, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
Q: How is the diagnosis made, besides history and exam?
A: With acute symptoms, the virus can be detected with PCR, which is very accurate. Other ways include: an lgM ELISA test, but there could be cross-reactivity to other flaviviruses; PRNT testing has improved specificity, but there could also be cross-reactivity with that.
Q: Where do you see the field of Zika research headed in the next year? What research questions do you feel are the most important?
A: Most important questions include: estimating the risk that the Zika Virus plays as a cause of microcephaly; research to understand Zika Virus replication; path of genesis and transmission; studies on natural history of Zika Virus; accurate diagnostic testing / drugs active against Zika; vaccine + immune response.
Many thanks to Hamilton Health Sciences for providing this information. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, feel free to tweet them at @HamHealthSc and they will do their best to reply.