Mosquito-Borne Zika Virus Now Linked to Permanent Blindness

Mosquito-Borne Zika Virus Now Linked to Permanent Blindness

By now we know that Zika Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, carries some serious health threats and risks, previously thought to be most dangerous for pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. If bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito carrying Zika, an unborn baby could potentially be born with a serious birth defect called Microcephaly, causing abnormally small heads and impaired brain function.

Zika Virus Causes Blindness

Now Zika Virus is also being linked to and eye infection causing permanent blindness, reported by the New England Journal of Medicine last week. This Zika-induced eye infection, uveitis, can cause glaucoma, cataracts and loss of vision.

How can you protect yourself?

If you’ve recently traveled to countries with documented Zika transmission – like Brazil, parts of the Carribbean and Central America, Mexico, and the Pacific Islands – see an ophthalmologist. Potential signs and symptoms of an eye infection related to Zika Virus are eye redness, pain or sensitivity to light. If left untreated, uveitis can “cause irrevocable damage to the retina,” according to Dr. C. Stephen Foster, president of the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institution in Waltham.

Planning to travel to a country with recent Zika outbreaks?

Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using bug repellent with DEET and keeping your arms and legs covered with loose-fitting long sleeves and pants (find out more about mosquito bite prevention here). Pregnant women or women expecting to become pregnant should avoid traveling to these countries all together. The same applies to men that are trying to conceive with their partner; Zika Virus can be sexually transmitted from men to women.

2016 Summer Olympics

Those planning to travel to Rio, Brazil for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics are especially at risk. At least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip, talk to your doctor about vaccinations and medicines recommended for travel to Brazil. It’s also a good idea to purchase travel health and medical evacuation insurance, according to the CDC, and stay up to date with travel warnings and breaking news in that area. While visiting Rio, mosquito bite prevention is key to reducing your risk of Zika and other mosquito-born diseases. Wear mosquito repellent with DEET around the clock, avoid areas of standing or stagnant water, and wear loose, light-colored clothing that covers arms and legs. And since Zika can be sexually-transmitted, avoid unprotected sex during travel and for at least 8 weeks after. The CDC recommends that pregnant women not go to the Olympics.

New Developments on Zika Virus from the CDC

New Developments on Zika Virus from the CDC

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now warning everyone that Zika is scarier than they originally thought.

Over 300 cases of Zika virus have now been confirmed in the U.S. And while most of these occurrences are in people who had traveled to countries with Zika-infected mosquitos, now we know that the virus can be transmitted sexually in addition to a mosquito bite.

The biggest concern right now related to Zika is for pregnant women. Zika virus can cause a neurodevelopmental disorder in fetuses, Microcephaly, that causes babies to be born with a head and brain that are smaller than normal. Now research is showing that Zika not only affects women in their first trimester, but can be a risk throughout all stages of pregnancy, according to CDC Deputy Director, Dr. Anne Schuchat.

“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” she added. “Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought.

The mosquitoes carrying Zika virus have been identified in 30 states across the country. This doesn’t mean the mosquitoes are infected, but health officials are concerned that as temperatures begin to rise, pregnant women from Texas to Florida will be at risk.

For women who are not pregnant, if you’ve experienced symptoms of Zika – fever, rash, itchy eyes – wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive. And even if you’ve had no symptoms at all but have recently traveled to any of the countries with active Zika transmissions, it’s advised to also wait 8 weeks or longer before trying to get pregnant.

On a positive note, the CDC has asked for federal funding to aid in the research and development of a cure, with a vaccine potentially expected to release in September 2016.

Meanwhile, reduce your risk of Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses with mosquito prevention tips and professional mosquito control.

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