I am writing to provide you with important information on the Zika virus, which has gained significant attention in the media in recent weeks. On January 22, 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert highlighting countries where Zika virus is prevalent. As you prepare for spring break travel, we want those that might be traveling to destinations impacted to take every precaution.
The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites. Currently it is most prevalent in tropical environments. Symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). There is no treatment other than supportive care and symptomatic medications. These symptoms typically last several days to one week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is rare. It is important to note that only 20-25% of people infected are symptomatic.
To date, there have been no cases originating in the continental United States. There have been cases among travelers returning from affected countries. The CDC cannot determine at this time how widely the virus will spread. For an updated list of countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission and travel advisories, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/ and http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent the virus; however, travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites. CDC recommendations for protection can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html
The virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. Recent evidence indicates that the virus can also be transmitted though infected blood or sexual contact (via semen). It can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been reports of a severe birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. For pregnant women (at any trimester) or women who are trying to get pregnant, or could be pregnant, the CDC recommends not traveling to areas where the virus has been reported. To view the Zika pregnancy interim guidelines, visit CDC’s Zika Travel Notices (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information).
As with many viral epidemics, the situation regarding the Zika virus remains fluid. University Health Services will continue to provide updated advice and recommendations to the Villanova community as more information becomes available.
Dr. Mary McGonigle
Student Health Center