The World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency on Feb. 1 due to the spread of the Zika Virus. This is the fourth time the WHO has taken this kind of action, the last time being for Ebola in 2014, according to The Washington Post.
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although not deadly, Zika has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes severe underdevelopment in the brain of a newborn. According to the Washington Post, there have been 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, 270 of which are confirmed with evidence of an infection.
With spring break right around the corner and students traveling during their vacations, students may travel to South America where the outbreak of Zika is happening. The Hudsonian spoke with Claudine Potvin-Giordano, Clinical Coordinator of College Health Services, about the Zika virus.
The Hudsonian: Who will be impacted most?
Claudine: For us, Zika will be pertinent to people who travel. Here in the [Capital Region] area, we don’t have those mosquitoes, so we aren’t fearful of contracting it.
The Hudsonian: How is Zika transmitted?
Claudine: So far, they know sexually. It’s not by casual contact, so if [someone with the disease] touches an object you touch, you can’t contract it. It’s not respiratory; it will be sexually transmitted if there is any contact in that area.
The Hudsonian: How do students and anyone going to places with these infected mosquitos prevent [infection]?
Claudine: You want to cover yourself up with long sleeves and protect yourself with insect repellent. Be mindful that not all of the products are meant to be on the skin, so make sure you use the product correctly. Should you go to that area and come back after you have been bitten by mosquitos, then having safe sex for a month to make sure your partner doesn’t get pregnant [is important].
The Hudsonian: What is the biggest concern caused by Zika?
Claudine: The biggest concern for this is not a serious illness if you contract it. The birth defects from pregnant young women are the biggest consequences of Zika. For your own personal health, it is not a big concern, but for a child-bearing women, it could be a very big concern.
The Hudsonian: Are there serious symptoms?
Claudine: It’s a light illness, so four out of five people don’t even know they have it. Symptoms are very mild. They have had a few complications, but most people don’t know they have it.
The Hudsonian: Is there any test for Zika?
Claudine: There is a test for it. If someone came to us and presented concern, we would refer them to the local health department who would test at that point. There is no real treatment, so the only way to keep yourself safe is to just protect yourself from mosquito bites.