I'll take the Olympic Medal in Gold, but hold the Zika

The Problem

The Olympics, much to many Chicagoans chagrin is in Brazil this year.  It may be hard to believe now, but summer will soon be here and that means so will the mosquitoes.  As you most likely know, Brazil is one of the countries most infected by Zika Virus.  Zika Virus is most commonly transmitted through mosquito bites-mainly the Aides species.  The most common symptoms of infection are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).  Most healthy individuals, have these symptoms for a few days and feel better, rarely requiring hospitalization.  The main concern however is for pregnant woman, who if are infected during pregnancy, have an increased risk of a serious birth defect known as microcephaly.  Microcephaly is a birth defect in which the baby is born with a smaller than expected head.  As you can imagine, this indicates slower, or in severe cases, even stopping of brain development.  

Visual of moderate to severe Microcephaly

Visual of moderate to severe Microcephaly

With change in brain development these babies have many complications including but not limited to:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delay such as speech, walking, standing, eating, and comprehension
  • intellectual Disabilities
  • Feeding Problems
  • Hearing Loss
  • Vision Loss
  • Death

These problems are often lifelong.  

To make matters worse, a infected healthy person can transmit the virus both prior to and after displaying symptoms of the virus.  Besides mosquito bites, Zika can be transmitted via blood and sexual contact lasting in semen much longer than blood.  All of the data on the time and frequency of birth defects and transmission is currently variable and observational as the virus has only been observed in underdeveloped countries.

The Argument

Extreme caution should be taken with travelers from the Olympics or any country with a high rate of Zika Virus due to the dangers for pregnant women and their babies.  The data on Zika complications is poor at best and the CDC and WHO are constantly updating their positions.  Exposure to those infected with Zika is an unnecessary risk for American pregnant women or those in countries where the virus does not currently exist.  The rate in Brazil is an absolute disaster and it is not fair for them to share it with the rest of the world by hosting the Olympics.  See the explosion here: http://time.com/4189782/brazil-microcephaly-zika-virus-babies/

The Facts

  • Zika Virus increases the risk of severe birth defects
  • Zika Virus is currently an epidemic in Brazil
  • There is no good data on how long an infected person can transmit the virus
  • The rate of microcephaly in Brazil has skyrocketed 20x's! (Romero, Simon (30 December 2015). "Alarm Spreads in Brazil Over a Virus and a Surge in Malformed Infants"The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016.)
  • Babies born with microcephaly have a poor chance at a normal life

The Solution

Require all people who have traveled to high risk regions to take a test for the virus.  The CDC has set everything up to do this, but now is the time to enforce it, especially after many travelers will be in Brazil. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0226-laboratory-test-for-zika-virus.html 

Take universal precautions to decrease mosquito proliferation.  This includes eliminating standing water around your property and city officials clearing the streets of potholes that collect water and filthy streets where standing water can collect in trash.  A simple uncovered trash a few yards from your patio can lead to thousands of mosquito larva hatching within days.

Use insect repellent and follow directions for reapplying.  Usually every few hours.  All EPA-registered repellent has been shown to be safe in pregnant and breast feeding women.  If being out in nature is unavoidable, wear pants and long sleeves to decrease surface areas for the mosquitoes.  If using sunscreen with repellent, make sure you apply the sunscreen BEFORE the repellent  to maintain the effectiveness of each.

If are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, take extra precaution with partners who have traveled to high risk regions {seen here} and ask your doctor if the test is right for them.  

Summer is coming be safe!

Summer is coming be safe!

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