What should you know about the Zika virus?

Discover how an unexpected trip to a high-risk Zika virus area changed one woman's plans. Learn the symptoms, prevention methods, and importance of getting tested after returning from a potentially infected location. Don't risk your health or unborn child – read on for essential travel tips!
what is Zika virus
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Life can be unpredictable and full of surprises, as I discovered when I was asked to talk about the Zika virus on live TV. At that time, I had little knowledge about this virus and thought it wasn’t relevant to Polish women. Boy, was I wrong! Here’s my story.

I hadn’t planned any vacations that year due to an early September pregnancy date. But unexpectedly, a friend told me about the Zika virus in Florida just after we purchased our tickets for a trip to the USA and Mexico. I remember thinking it was an exaggeration since we were not planning a pregnancy anyway.

When we arrived at Miami airport, posters warning us of Zika were everywhere along with radio announcements urging precautions against the disease. It turned out South Florida was in high-risk zone 1 for contracting Zika – quite a surprise given its reputation as a developed country! We learned that Zika could cause severe birth defects if contracted during pregnancy, mainly microcephaly affecting brain development.

There are two ways one can get infected with Zika: through mosquito bites or sexual contact with someone carrying the disease (from CDC). Being aware of risk areas is crucial because they constantly change primarily in countries where humidity and heat are prevalent. While living in such areas presents unique challenges during pregnancy or travel therein, focus here will be on vacation situations since more people might find themselves visiting these locations occasionally.

If you’ve been exposed to the Zika virus, watch for symptoms like fever, headache, joint pain, and red eyes. Not everyone shows symptoms, and some may not realize they’re infected. If you feel sick after visiting a high-risk area, use paracetamol instead of ibuprofen or aspirin to avoid complications. It’s vital for travelers to get tested for Zika antibodies – IgG and IgM – about 2-3 weeks after returning to catch the virus in the early stages. If planning a pregnancy and both partners test negative for Zika, proceed with caution. Positive results may not confirm an infection due to cross-reactions with similar viruses like Dengue and yellow fever. Confirm any positive serology tests with PCR tests, which look for the virus’s RNA. If planning a pregnancy or during pregnancy, avoiding Zika exposure is crucial. Use condoms to prevent transmission and ensure both partners are clear of the virus before trying to conceive. This helps protect against congenital abnormalities such as microcephaly, which can cause severe developmental issues.

In conclusion, it’s essential to stay informed about the Zika virus, especially if you’re planning a trip to high-risk areas or are pregnant. Take precautions and follow CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. And remember, even if there are no immediate plans for pregnancy, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to potentially harmful viruses. Stay informed, stay safe, and enjoy your travels!

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