Experts at Stony Brook University Hospital have been discussing the Zika virus since the World Health Organization recently declared the outbreak in Latin America to be a public health emergency.
“There is a true concern, and although the virus itself causes a benign viral infection that most people won’t even feel sick, the larger concern is that we have seen an increase of microcephalus in children born to women who had that infection during pregnancy,” Dr. Bettina Fries, chief of Stony Brook Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases, said.
The disease spreads through the aedes mosquito and can cause neurological disorder. It is also known to cause microcephaly in pregnant mothers, which can cause their babies to be born with unusually small heads.
“Pregnant women, in any point of their pregnancy, or those who are attempting to become pregnant, should consider postponing any travel to areas where Zika is present,” David Garry, professor in the Department Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine, Stony Brook Medicine, said. “For any pregnant women who might have traveled to a geographical area where Zika virus transmission is occurring, and is either symptomatic or asymptomatic but suspected of having been infected, should contact their OBGYN for further evaluation.”
One in five people are expected to get sick from the illness, which was previously contained to African and Asian countries, but has been spreading rapidly through Latin America. Recent cases have been reported in the United States.
“Of course, one concern would be that Zika would be able to establish itself in the continental United States in a manner parallel to what West Nile virus was able to do,” Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of the Healthcare Epidemiology Department, Stony Brook University Hospital, said. “Importantly, there are several mosquito-borne diseases we see locally, such as West Nile virus. If we see an earlier mosquito season, due to an early and wet spring, people should be thinking about how they can prepare for the season and avoid mosquito bites, in general.”