JENSEN BEACH – With a health emergency declared in some Florida counties heading into the peak of the winter tourist season and predictions of a potential pandemic outbreak of the Zika virus, a virus that can cause birth defects by infecting pregnant women, the professionals at Women’s Health Specialists have joined the Centers for Disease Control to urge pregnant women and their spouses who live in or plan to visit Florida to be on the alert for possible symptoms of the virus. The Zika virus has been confirmed in four Florida counties although there are currently no documented cases of the virus being transmitted in Florida.
The Zika virus can cause Microcephaly in newborns. It literally means “small head,” and infants are usually diagnosed if their head circumference is in the bottom three percent for infants of the same sex and age. Those with the defect often face a host of other symptoms related to the deformity. These problems include seizures, developmental delays, hearing loss and vision problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to Jennifer Burgess, M.D. of Women”s Health Specialists in Jensen Beach, Florida, about one in five people infected with the Zika virus become ill. “The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.”
The CDC says the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days, but it can be found longer in some people. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
Since the Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, Dr. Burgess says pregnant women living in or visiting Florida should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes if we have an outbreak of mosquitoes caused by our unusually wet winter. Florida’s normal mosquito season usually starts with the onset of the annual rainy season in late May. However 2016 has ushered in record rainfall thanks to the El Nino weather pattern.
“See your healthcare provider if you develop the symptoms described above and have visited an area where Zika is found in Florida or outside the United States,” said Dr. Burgess. “If you have recently traveled, tell your healthcare provider when and where you traveled. If there are questions about your health or that of your unborn child based on your symptoms, there may be a need for blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya which have also been reported in Florida,” Dr. Burgess added.
Since no vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections, experts urge pregnant women to treat the symptoms of Zika if they are diagnosed with the virus.
Those infected should get plenty of rest; drink fluids to prevent dehydration; take medicines, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain; do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding).
If taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication. If you have Zika, avoid mosquito bites for the first week of your illness.
During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. If you are bitten by mosquitoes and have questions about whether you have become infected with the Zika virus or have an allergic reaction seek medical assistance immediately. “If an area becomes inflamed, red and itchy, it is a good idea to have it checked out by a professional. Odds are it is nothing serious, but it is better to err on the side of safety,” recommended Dr. Burgess.
For more than 50 years, Women’s Health Specialists’ highly regarded and modern OB/GYN practice has provided a full range of healthcare services to women during all stages of their lives, from puberty, to child-bearing ages, menopause and beyond.
Women’s Health Specialists main office is located at 3498 N.W. Federal Highway, Jensen Beach, with a second office in downtown Tradition at 10771 SW Trade Street, Port St. Lucie, FL 34987. Additional information about Women’s Health Specialists can be found at whsfl.com. Information about the JeuneNu Aesthetic Center and CoolSculpting can be found at JeuneNu.com.