Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy Friday advised Commonwealth residents that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the link between Zika Virus disease in pregnant women and microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
The Department of Health takes the Zika virus very seriously and is working with the CDC to monitor the situation. Keeping the residents of the Commonwealth safe and healthy is the department’s top priority.
“The confirmation of these Zika-related health complications reinforces the need for all Pennsylvanians to be aware of how to protect themselves from the Zika Virus,” said Secretary Murphy. “The department takes the risk of birth defects very seriously and will continue to monitor this situation with the CDC to ensure everyone in the Commonwealth has the information and resources necessary to avoid this potentially serious virus.”
The finding that Zika virus infection can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects means that a woman who is infected with Zika during pregnancy has an increased risk of having a baby with these health problems.
It does not mean, however, that all women who have Zika virus infection during pregnancy will have babies with birth defects. As has been seen during the current Zika outbreak, many infected women have delivered babies that appear to be healthy.
Pregnant women should continue to avoid travel to areas where Zika is actively spreading. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with active Zika virus transmission, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites as well as acquiring the Zika virus from sexual contact.
The CDC advises men who have traveled to the Zika-affected areas to wear condoms consistently and correctly during sex to avoid spreading the virus to their partners. This is especially important for men whose partners are pregnant women or women who are of childbearing age.
As we approach the mosquito season in Pennsylvania, travelers from Zika-affected areas should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites in the week after returning home, even if they are not experiencing symptoms, in order to limit the introduction of this virus to local mosquito populations.
The mosquito that primarily carries the disease has rarely been found in Pennsylvania.
A related type of mosquito that can potentially carry Zika has been found in southern and southeastern Pennsylvania. At present, this mosquito does not appear to be as effective at spreading Zika.
Zika is a generally mild illness, and most individuals do not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include fever, rash, joint or muscle pain, conjunctivitis (pink eye), or headache, and last from several days to one week.
Because there currently is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus, the best way to avoid contracting the virus when traveling to an affected area is to prevent mosquito bites by:
-- Using an insect repellent containing DEET;
-- Wearing light-colored clothes that cover as much of the body as possible;
-- Using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and
-- Sleeping under mosquito nets.
If you develop symptoms within two weeks of visiting a Zika-affected country, contact your health care provider.
Visit the Department of Health’s Zika Virus webpage.
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