People are being exposed to the virus by traveling to Zika virus-affected areas and being bitten by infected mosquitoes, according to Dr. Diana Yu, Mason County Public Heath Officer. The good news is that the mosquitoes species known to transmit the disease do not live in the State of Washington, making it highly unlikely that the virus could spread here through a mosquito bite.
Until more is known, the CDC recommends that women who are pregnant consider waiting to travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If you must travel to a Zika-affected area, there are several preventative measures listed on Mason County’s Public Health website that can decrease your chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito. If you have traveled to a Zika virus-affected area, and are concerned, pleased contact your health care providers.
“There have been reports of microcephaly (a rare birth defect in which a baby’s head is much smaller than the heads of other children the same age and sex, generally related to under development of the brain) and other health problems in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.” explains Dr. Yu.
The CDC reports outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Brazil, and other countries and territories surrounding Brazil. The virus is known to cause fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. These symptoms are usually mild lasting up to a week, but it is important to note that 80% of those infected may show no signs at all. If one does show symptoms, they usually occur 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
While those traveling to affected areas are at risk of the virus, once infected, it is possible the virus can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Other forms of transmission may be through blood transfusion and/or sexual contact with an infected person.
For additional information regarding the Zika virus, please visit the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website: www.doh.wa.gov or the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website: www.cdc.gov. You can also contact the Mason County Public helath and Human Services at 360-427-9670 ext. 400 or by visiting www.healthymasoncounty.org.