The Zika virus has been in the news lately and hearing about this when you have a spouse or family member in Central America or another area where there seems to be an outbreak can be quite scary.
The best thing to do is to learn more about the virus, how dangerous the disease is and how at risk the military is when they are in areas of the world with people who are being infected with the disease. The more you understand, the better off that you will be.
What is the Zika virus?
This virus is a non-fatal form of dengue fever. In most cases the Zika virus is quite mild. The military does not expect this virus to pose a health risk to troops.
What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?
The symptoms include a mild fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Some people will also experience headaches and muscle pain. Remember that the Zika virus is overall mild and people are rarely hospitalized when they are infected.
Microcephaly is the biggest issue with this disease. You have probably seen the photos of the babies with the very small heads. These babies had mothers who were infected with the Zika virus when they were pregnant. The virus has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
How can you get the Zika virus?
According to Health.mil, Zika is primarily spread to people through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, though we do not know how often that transmission occurs. Once a person has been infected with the virus, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
Which countries are most at risk?
Although there have been a few cases in the United States, this is not considered an outbreak. These countries are under a travel alert: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What is the CDC doing about the Zika virus?
The CDC is working to alert the public about the disease, provide state laboratories with good diagnostic tests and making sure they are reporting cases so they can keep their eye on what the diseases is doing and how far it is spreading. As of today, there is no vaccine.
What can military families do to protect themselves?
The best way to handle this is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Avoid time outside if possible if you are in a location where there is a known outbreak, wear long-sleeved shirts, use netting when possible, use EPA-registered insect repellents, and sleep under a mosquito bed net.
Be extra careful if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about your personal risks of contacting this disease.
Whatever you do, try not to worry too much about the Zika virus. Do what you can to educate yourself about what the disease really is, how things can spread and what you can do to protect yourself and your family. Make good decisions about where to travel and feel free to ask questions if you are worried about something specific.
You can learn more about the Zika virus from these websites:
Your spouse who is deployed in Central America should have had a briefing about the Zika virus. See if they can fill you in on what they have been told to ease your worries. Know that the military is aware of the disease and is working hard to make sure that the troops overseas are protected from contracting it.