It seems you can’t watch or read the news without seeing something about the Zika virus. What does this mean for people with chronic conditions?
• Zika virus kills developing brain cells causing the birth defect microcephaly in children born to women who contract the virus while pregnant. This is why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued travel warnings for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant to countries where the disease has been found. A list of these countries are available at the CDC’s website.
• The primary mode of transmission is the Aedes mosquito. It is also possible for men to transmit it sexually. While there have been multiple reports of blood transfusion cases in Brazil none have been reported in the US as of Feb. 1, 2016. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
• As of March 2, the CDC reports 153 cases of travel associated Zika virus disease in the US. No locally acquired cases have been reported
• Only 1 in 5 people exhibits symptoms, which may include fever, rash, joint pain and redness in the whites of the eye. It has not been viewed as a severe infectious disease until now.
• There is no treatment, but over the counter pain relief medications work well.
So if you are a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or the sex partner of a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, take pre cautionary measures by not traveling to areas where Zika is known to be present.
Are there risks for those with chronic conditions? The one group that may be impacted are those with chronic pain, since Zika can cause joint pain. To date, there have been no documented reports of long-term joint pain or the development of arthritis in people infected with Zika. Learn more about this at Practical Pain Management
With increased research, more will be learned about Zika and whether it is a possible cause of a chronic condition and/or if it could exacerbate an existing one.
Prevention is key: In addition to the CDC prevention guidelines, in February, Consumer Reports issued a report on insect repellants that work against Zika. The most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. They kept mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. (The Sawyer product was more effective at repelling ticks than the deet products we tested, making it our top insect repellent overall.) Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, containing 30 percent lemon eucalyptus, stopped bites for 7 hours. The IR3535 products didn’t make our list of recommended sprays. Neither did products that contained 5 percent picaridin or 7 percent deet. The Most Effective Insect Repellents (Consumer Reports)