The Zika virus has been in the news for over a year – the first reported outbreak of the current Zika scare was in Brazil in April of 2015 – but the steady stream of information, news reports and prime-time specials have, in some ways, actually muddied the waters in regards to concrete facts. Many questions still remain: Is there a vaccine for the Zika virus? Is the Zika virus contagious? Is it spread primarily through mosquitoes, or contagious person-to-person methods? And what is the likelihood that a case of contagious Zika transmission could happen in Arizona?
With so many questions, finding answers is hard. The Zika virus is much more than a medical issue; the political and economic tumult surrounding the Zika virus is hard to ignore. For example, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, located in the Zika hot-spot of Brazil, are in danger of lower participation from athletes, severe travel restrictions and other negative publicity. Also, Zika is one of the few health scares in history to merit a $1 billion request from Congress.
From high-level government responses to ground-level reality, the Zika virus is already one of the most notorious epidemics in modern history.
The Zika Virus: A Brief History
The 2015-2016 outbreak of the Zika Virus isn’t the first time we’ve seen this potentially deadly strain. Named after the Zika forest in Uganda, the virus was first reported back in 1947. The year 2007 was a tipping point, in terms of the number of confirmed Zika virus cases reported. Prior to 2007, about a dozen Zika cases were documented. Since that time, there have been tens of thousands of confirmed instances of the Zika virus. Presently, there are over 40,000 people in Brazil with the Zika virus, and about 4 times that number (closed to 160,000 people) are suspected to already be infected.
The current outbreak is by far the most serious case of the Zika virus, and with all the conflicting information available, it’s easy to miss the big picture. That’s why we put together this Zika virus resource. Now that we’ve covered some contemporary and historical facts about Zika, let’s turn to some of the most pressing questions about this often talked about, but mostly misunderstood phenomenon.
Zika Virus Q&A
You’ve heard a lot about Zika – but how much is actually true? What should you be worried about? What are the primary symptoms? Is the Zika virus contagious? And from a local perspective, how does Zika impact Arizona? You have questions, and the medical experts at Banner Urgent Care have answers!
Q: Is Zika contagious? Can I get it from another person?
A: Yes, but the pathways to infection are limited. The three main ways the Zika virus spreads include:
- Mosquito bites, specifically from mosquitoes of the Aedes species (both Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti)
- Sexual intercourse with an infected man
- Transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus
There are two “minor methods” that the Zika virus can be transmitted. In Brazil, the country most affected by the virus, hundreds of blood transfusion cases are currently under investigation. Given that the virus is a blood-borne virus carried by mosquitoes, blood transfusions are a likely (although not 100% confirmed) pathway. Also, laboratory researchers and technicians are uniquely exposed to the Zika virus through regular procedural work.
Q: What are the primary symptoms of the Zika virus?
Symptoms resemble effects from the influenza virus. Typical symptoms include swollen and inflamed joints, a heavy rash, fever, malaise, nausea, general muscle pain and fatigue. If you suspect you might have the Zika virus, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. In most cases, over-the-counter acetaminophen helps reduce the pain and swelling caused by the Zika virus.
Q: Is there a vaccine for Zika?
A: Not yet, although researchers, scientists and government agencies are actively pursuing one. The main United States agency in charge of Zika response, cure and detection methods is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Right now, the CDC is working with other multinational organizations to develop a vaccine. Also, the CDC is helping prevent the spread of the virus – especially in regards to the U.S. southern border region, including Arizona – with mosquito nets, training initiatives, better detection and treatment methods, travel advisories, and educational programs.
On the vaccine front, a breakthrough may be just around the corner. An experimental Zika vaccine has been approved for clinical trials in the United States, and a single-shot vaccine (in the form of two different drugs), developed by a joint U.S. – Brazil team of researchers, has shown remarkable results in laboratory mice, suggesting the potential for a human vaccine isn’t far off. A significant effort (from both public and private institutions) is underway to find a Zika vaccine, with medical immortality (along with a huge financial reward) as the ultimate incentive to find the elusive cure.
Q: What about Zika in Arizona?
A: According to the latest information available from the CDC, published in April 2016, almost the entire state of Arizona is considered in the range of the current outbreak of the Zika virus. The two main carriers of the Zika virus, the Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, cover the entire southern and middle portions of the state. Only the far northern region of Arizona is considered “out of range” – and hence currently safe from mosquito transmission – of the virus. Keep in mind, this CDC exposure map only takes into account confirmed mosquito species range. Other forms of transmission (sexual, laboratory, travel-associated, etc.) are not accounted for.
Q: Have any contagious transmission cases have been confirmed in the United States?
A: As of June 29, 2016, there are less than 1,000 cases of the Zika virus in the United States. Of the 935 confirmed cases, 934 are “travel-associated,” while the other infection was acquired in a laboratory setting. Thus, no domestic mosquito-borne Zika virus infections have been detected. Some analysts think the CDC’s efforts to combat mosquito-human contact is the primary reason, while others cite the temperate to cool temperatures in much of the central and northern United States.
Banner Urgent Care’s Role – Putting Patient Safety First
Since we’re one of the most prominent immediate care healthcare networks in Arizona, our goal is help educate, diagnose and treat the Zika virus. If you suspect you might have the virus, or are worried about certain symptoms, please stop by any of our Arizona walk-in clinics today.
If you’re still uncertain about if the Zika virus in contagious, have any questions about the Zika virus, or would like to speak with one of our healthcare experts, please call our main office at (480) 988-9108. Thanks for reading the Banner Urgent Care blog!