Consider again − after learning the public health threat highlighted here with eyes on the U.S. region.
Let’s start with a snapshot on the crucial timeline to see how Zika epidemic has been evolved after the 1st Zika case identified in Brazil in April 2015.
As you may know, Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Travel-associated cases imply individuals infected abroad and then returned to the country. No immediately mosquito-transmitted Zika infection has been reported in the 50 US states so far, but the CDC has alerted the epidemic is likely to change with mosquito season’s arrival.
How should you be concerned?
Birth defects (e.g. microcephaly, fetal malformations) have been linked to Zika virus. Thus, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to this emerging infectious disease.
If you are a healthy adult, you’re still not Zika-proof. In most cases, Zika virus causes a brief, mild flu-like illness. As documented, adults have also suffered from severe neurological disorders such as meningitis, meningoencephalitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome. A rare complication may be internal bleeding, which caused the first US Zika-related death.
Here are a few key points:
- There is no vaccine or effective treatment for this disease.
- Zika-specific tests could be expensive and not readily available.
- There is a lot of UNKNOWN, though more research is underway.
How would you possibly be impacted?
With summer approaching, mosquitoes are coming. But don’t panic, not all mosquitoes spread this disease.
Two mosquito species may carry Zika virus: 1) Aedes aegypti; and 2) Aedes albopictus, the latter is also known as Asian Tiger mosquito. However, there is no way to tell if a mosquito is Zika-infected.
Next, where would Zika-carrier mosquitoes likely to be found?
Places like Florida, Texas and Louisiana are home of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, whereas the Midwest and much of the East Coast happen to be climate or environment for Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger) mosquito. So, a “New Bug” is expected to be around.
What can you do?
Current strategic measure is Self-Prevention and Self-Protection, as briefly summarized in the following areas:
Travel cautions: Pregnant women are advised against travel to the affected countries, and if a trip is required, test the positivity of Zika virus presence once returning.
Personal protection: Extra vigilance and care for pregnant women, wearing long-sleeve cloths, gearing up with mosquito repellent (EPA-certified), and remember – The mosquito-biting time could be daytime!
Note that other routes of Zika infection include sexual or maternal-fetal transmission or blood transfusion.
Environmental prevention: Eliminate potential mosquito’s egg-laying sites by emptying or drying water buckets, water storage units and other plant pots.
Medication alert: Although analgesics is a part of supportive management, avoid Aspirin and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because of the risk for hemorrhage among patients with cancer or dengue or taking specific therapies at elevated danger of bleeding.
Last but not the least, because it’s unclear as how the course of Zika infection influences that of cancer, cancer patients should maintain close check-up or follow-up with your physicians and specialists, particularly for those with an immune-suppressed condition or with significant comorbidity.
Zika outbreak may come rapidly, so get prepared and get ready!
References: 1) Hepner and del Pilar Estevez Diz: Journal of Global Oncology. April 2016; and 2) Plourde and Bloch: EID journal. Vol.22, 2016
Image credit: physio-pedia.com and CPD