The Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health wants residents to be aware of Zika virus and measures to prevent the spread of Zika virus. Although there have been no cases of Zika virus in Guilford County or even in the state of North Carolina, Zika virus has been around since 1947 and has recently been associated  with travel outside of the United States.  Brazil has had a significant rise in Zika cases in 2015.

Zika is a virus and is primarily spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. About one in five people infected with Zika will get sick and the illness is usually mild, except in pregnant women. There has been a correlation between women who have been bitten by mosquitos carrying the Zika virus and women having infants with neurological birth defects, including microcephaly (infant with smaller heads and brains).

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness generally lasts from several days to a week and typically begins within two to seven days after the mosquito bite.  There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the Zika virus.  Since these symptoms closely mimic influenza virus, anyone who has visited any of the affected countries should notify their physician.

Pregnant women should avoid or postpone travel to areas currently experiencing Zika outbreaks. Since late 2015, the increased incidences of the virus have been found in Central and South America.  For a list of all of these countries, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html   People who are traveling outside the US should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, such as:  wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; staying in places with air-conditioning or using window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside; using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents (be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions) and sleeping under a mosquito net if outside (camping).

The possibility of local exposure to the Zika virus is low. “Public Health’s purpose is to educate the county’s residents so that they can minimize their risk of Zika exposure when traveling this year, especially pregnant women.  We strive to protect the health and well-being of all our county residents while at home and when traveling abroad”, said Merle Green, Guilford County Health Director.

For more information about Zika or the Zika virus, please call the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health at 336-641-6500 or visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html