Five Ways to Protect Yourself From the Zika Virus

Zika MosquitoAs the number of Zika virus infections continues to rise in the US, it is important to take the right steps in order to minimize your risk of contracting the disease.

Travel Smart

Pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant should avoid traveling to Zika affected areas. This includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Outside of the US this also includes Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and most of South America.

Wear Mosquito Repellent

The Center for Disease Control recommends mosquito repellent products with the active ingredients DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or IR 3535. DEET is safe for pregnant women to use. Don’t forget to spray the feet and ankles as the Zika carrying mosquitos have a preference for these areas.

Wear Protective Clothing

Wear dark colored long sleeves and long pants including shoes with full coverage. You can get extra protection by wearing clothing that contains permethrina synthetic insecticide which is safe for pregnant women and children to use.

Remove Standing Water

Aedes mosquitoes that spread Zika feed during the morning into the afternoon and like to go inside houses for shade and reproduction. Any water located in your home could be a breeding ground for mosquitos. One tablespoon of water can serve as a breeding ground and produce up to 300 mosquitos. Be sure to get rid of any standing water in or around your home including in flower and plant pots, garbage, buckets, and any item that holds water.

Exercise Inside

Aedes mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide, heat, and sweat. It’s best to switch your morning run into an indoor workout, especially in Zika affected areas and when it’s warm out. Blast the AC when you’re inside to keep those mosquitoes out.

Zika May Cause Brain Damage in Adults Too

Most of the concern surrounding the Zika virus has centered around pregnant women and the birth defects that develop in babies who were infected in the womb. However, adult brain cells are not completely safe.

In rare cases, it was known that Zika was linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can result in paralysis and death. People experiencing Guillain-Barré tend to recover about 6 to 8 weeks after symptoms, such as tingling and muscle weakness that spreads throughout the body, begin. Now, new research has found evidence that adult brain cells critical to learning and member may be at risk, as well.

“Based on our findings, getting infected with Zika as an adult may not be as innocuous as people think,” Joseph Gleeson, MD, adjunct professor at Rockefeller, head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Disease, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

A study published in Cell Stem Cell found that mice infected with the Zika virus showed neural progenitor cells were susceptible to the virus. Most adult neurons are resistant to the virus, but some replenish and are vital for learning and memory. The researchers found that the virus may have the same ability to infect adult neural progenitor cells as it does regarding fetal neural progenitor cells.

The results of the research, conducted only in mice, are only a first step, though. More research is needed to find the effect on an adult brain and to see if the mice model translates to humans. The researchers are also looking to find if the damage to adult brain cells can result in long-term damage.

“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” Sujan Shresta, PhD, study co-author and a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, said in a statement. “But it’s a complex disease—it’s catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for.”

Microcephaly Screening Won’t Catch All Cases of Zika in Newborns

Microcephaly is a condition in which the brain does not develop properly resulting in a physical deformity, specifically, a smaller than normal head.

It is one of the most common outcomes of Zika virus infection in newborns, but the infection cannot be accurately diagnosed in babies solely based on screening for the brain defect. According to researchers, in order to detect Zika virus infection in newborns, signs and symptoms of brain abnormalities, not just head circumference, should be included in the screening criteria.

After studying all suspected cases of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil, the researchers discarded 3 out of 5 cases because they ended up being normal newborn babies with small heads.

“However, one in five definite or probable Zika cases had head circumference values in the normal range, said lead author Professor Cesar G Victora from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil. “Therefore, the current focus on microcephaly screening alone is too narrow.”

Of the 1501 live born cases investigated, 899 were discarded. However, Zika infection among 602 cases were categorized as probable or definite. Among these cases, the babies had small head circumference at birth and their mothers were more likely to have experienced a rash during pregnancy. The definite or probable cases were also 4 times more likely to die in the first weeks of life.

More than 100 of these cases had head circumferences with normal range, however. As such, they would not have been included in the analysis for Zika if the researchers had used smaller cutoffs for head circumference.

“Although we believe that the underreporting of microcephaly cases is rare during the epidemic, newborns infected with the virus late in pregnancy may go unreported due to their head size being within normal range,” Victora said.

According to the researchers, their findings suggest that some, but not all fetuses in pregnancies affected by Zika will have brain abnormalities and microcephaly. However, other fetuses will have abnormalities with normal head sizes, and others still will not be affected. A surveillance system should not just focus on microcephaly or even rash during pregnancy, as for one-third of definite or probable cases there was no history of rash.

Unfortunately, the researchers have not yet determined the ideal cut-off point for head circumference.

Olympics Danger – Journalists and Athletes Concerned About Zika

SZika Mosquitoince the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus outbreak a public health emergency, there has been a lot of international concern. This summer, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is hosting the Summer Olympics, but unfortunately, Rio lies in a Zika virus-affected area. Some Rio officials are saying that the Zika risk at the Rio Olympics is low and “close to zero”.

However, recent reports show that the estimated rate of virus infections in Rio is 157 per 100,000 people, which is more than triple the national average of Brazil. Within the first three months of this year, there were close to 26,000 reported cases of Zika in Rio.

It is understandable that both athletes participating in the Olympics, as well as journalists, are starting to back out. NBC’s Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie recently announced she will not be covering the Rio Olympics because she is pregnant. NBC will be sending 2,000 employees to cover the Olympics but stated that no one will be required to travel if they think their health could be at risk.

Cyclist Tejay van Garderen also announced he is pulling out of the games due to the fear of catching Zika and passing it to his currently pregnant wife. Aussie golfer Marc Leishman also announced he will not be competing in Rio due to fear of contracting Zika due to his immune-compromised wife.

Even though Rio de Janeiro Olympic officials are deeming the games safe, experts (who aren’t concerned about monetary loss) are worried that game officials are overlooking the risks amid fears of losing profits.

Harvard Public Health Review recently published an article that half a million visitors to Rio for the Olympics pose a risk of spreading the virus once they return to their home countries. The study’s lead author Amir Attran said, “Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil’s outbreak more extensive than scientists reckoned a short time ago. Which leads to a bitter truth: the 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games must be postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession.”