Zika Virus: What you need to know

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KING COUNTY  —  The Zika virus is now a global public health threat.  The World Health Organization says it’s on the same level as Ebola, Polio and H1N1.  “Anybody can get this at any age. And any sex can get this,” says Dr. Scott Lindquist of the WA State Health Department.  Lindquist says the spread of the Zika virus is causing many moms to worry.  At this point, the virus has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil.  It’s a rare neurological condition where babies are born with small heads.  There’s little known about the virus and whether or not it’s causing these rare birth defects, but Dr. Lindquist insists, now is not the time to panic.  “The chances of this spreading in WA is incredibly low. We don’t have the species of mosquito that transmits the virus,” says Lindquist.  Zika is not far from our state`s border. Three Oregonians are among 31 cases of Zika virus reported in the United States, according to the Oregonian.  The Centers for Disease Control says all of those patients got the virus while traveling.  That means we could see cases here.  “We will have travelers from WA state that come back. If there’s a concern that they have any of the symptoms that are consistent with Zika virus, they should see their doctor. We have sent less than a handful of samples to the CDC for testing,” says Lindquist.  Dr. Lindquist says Zika virus is a mild illness transmitted through a mosquito bite.  Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and headaches.  The virus usually clears the bloodstream after 7 days.  “There’s some concern that they are finding this in body fluids, but there’s no clear evidence that this is sexually transmitted,” says Lindquist.  Right now, there’s no vaccine or anti-viral to treat or prevent the virus.  The only real prevention is avoiding mosquitoes.  And because Brazil will host a lot of international travelers for the Olympics, local officials there are working on mosquito eradication programs.  “There’s too little that’s known about this, but I think the one concrete thing we should all focus on is this is not the only virus transmitted through mosquitoes. We should really focus our efforts on mosquito prevention,” says Lindquist.  If you are traveling and you feel unsure, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.

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