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What you need to know about the Zika virus

Posted at 11:16 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 23:18:32-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- There's been growing concern recently about the outbreak of the Zika Virus, which puts pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk.

This week the Virginia Department of Health reported a Virginia resident who recently traveled abroad was infected through a mosquito bite, but they did not specify which country the patient had visited.

In fact, officials at VCU Medical Center said Thursday a patient is being tested who may have contracted the Zika virus.

But what exactly is it?

And how can you keep yourself safe?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the Zika virus is spread by aggressive mosquitoes.

The CDC said the Zika virus illness is usually mild, and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Symptoms can last from several days to a week. There is no vaccine to prevent and no medicine to treat the Zika virus infection.



The CDC said 80% of people who become infected won`t even know they have it.

They advise there is a possible association between the Zika virus infection in pregnant women and subsequent birth defects.

The children will likely have brain development problems and need constant care over the course of their lives.

“Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to consider postponing travel to Zika-affected countries while pregnant. In addition, we are urging everyone, especially pregnant women, to check health travel advisories before leaving the United States and to take preventive measures when traveling in affected areas of the world,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine.

The mosquito-borne disease has raged in South America and other regions for several months.

The CDC urged pregnant women to postpone travel to Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Samoa, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The CDC also recommended that women who have recently traveled to these places during their pregnancy be screened and monitored for the virus.

So far there have been no reports of the virus being transmitted in the US, but health experts say that could change as more travelers return home and are diagnosed.

Mosquitoes become infected with the Zika virus when they feed on a person who has it. The newly infected mosquitoes then transmit the virus to the next person it bites.

The CDC says the virus has also been spread through blood transfusions and through sexual contact.

The Virginia Health Department says no one in the state is in danger right now because it's not mosquito season.

The CDC offered some additional tips to protect you:

  • Remove standing water from around your home. Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in those kinds of places.
  • If you plan to travel out of the country, be cautious.
  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear long sleeves and pants.