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The ABZs of Zika

Posted September 21

The Zika virus is mild and inconsequential for most people -- except for young families. Here's a primer on a variety of questions parents may have about the disease. (Deseret Photo)

Aedes aegypti isn’t the only way to get Zika, but the striped-leg mosquito gets most of the buzz. Another type of mosquito, Aedes albopictus, carries it too, and it can also be transmitted through sexual contact. Twenty-three out of 2,722 cases in the U.S. were transmitted through sex; 2,686 were travel related, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Brazil has the highest incidence of Zika cases to date; more than 1,800 babies have been born with microcephaly there since the outbreak began in 2015.

Condoms, the World Health Organization says, can help stop Zika’s spread. Men who have traveled to countries with Zika should use them for at least two months after their return if they show no signs of Zika; 6 months if Zika is suspected. Researchers believe the virus leaves the bloodstream after two weeks, but it appears to linger longer in semen.

DEET is the ingredient the CDC recommends when choosing an insect repellant. It doesn’t kill mosquitoes, but makes it harder for them to smell us, according to the EPA. Look for formulations that are between 20 and 30 percent DEET.

Ebola funds are helping to pay the costs of the U.S. government's response to Zika, which includes testing, research and mosquito eradication.

Flavivirus is the genus to which Zika belongs, along with other viruses transmitted by arthropods. Others include yellow fever, dengue, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself as it attempts to recover from an infection. Its incidence increases in areas with Zika, leading researchers to believe there’s a link. It can cause weakness of the extremities and temporarily paralysis. It seems to occur in about 1 out of every 4,000 Zika cases, according to Vox.

Hearing loss has been reported in 6 percent of Zika-infected babies in Brazil.

Insect repellant, both in pump bottles and wipes, is being given to visitors at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, and Florida hotel rooms are being stocked with aerosol sprays, The Orlando Sentinel reports.

Jet Blue, which flies to the Caribbean and Latin America, offers refunds or exchanges for customers who booked a flight to a country with a CDC travel warning prior to Aug. 31. The CDC says it’s unlikely that we can catch Zika in an airplane cabin, since mosquitoes are rarely found there.

Kids who contract Zika aren’t likely to suffer symptoms that are worse than those of adults. “There haven’t been any reports that suggest Zika causes more severe symptoms in children or infants” (unless it was contracted in utero), David Vu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford Medicine, told NPR.

Lactic acid, an ingredient in sweat, is one of the things that attract mosquitoes to humans. They’re also drawn by the carbon dioxide we exhale and the heat we give off, and they can smell our blood from up to 100 feet away, which is why some insect repellents work by masking our smell.

Microcephaly is the tragic calling card of Zika. Babies born with it have abnormally small heads and varying amounts of brain damage. About 1 in 100 babies born to women with Zika will have microcephaly at birth or develop it within six months.

NS-1, short for non-structural protein 1, is the microscopic villain thought to be behind Zika’s rampage through the brain. It’s present in other flaviviruses, including West Nile and Dengue, according to Popular Science.

Olympians in Rio apparently didn’t spread Zika, like some health officials had feared. “There have so far been no laboratory confirmed cases of Zika virus in spectators, athletes or anyone else associated with the Olympics,” the World Health Organization said Aug. 25.

Puerto Rico has confirmed more than 8,000 cases of Zika, and the CDC says up to a quarter of its residents could be infected by the end of the year.

Quarantine is not necessary or recommended, according to the CDC, because Zika is not passed through casual contact.

Rash, headaches, joint pain, fever, sensitivity to light and red, itchy eyes are the symptoms of Zika. But only one out of 5 people who are infected show symptoms. Researchers think you may have lifetime immunity after getting it, but that's unproven.

Singapore is the latest country to report an outbreak, and the CDC added the country to its list of travel warnings Aug. 30. Other countries predicted to see outbreaks are India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to Vox.

Travel remains the No. 1 cause for Zika infections within the US. Frequent travelers can subscribe to a text messaging service the CDC provides for Zika updates. Text PLAN to 855-255-5606 to subscribe.

Ultrasounds are typically given to pregnant women twice during pregnancy, but the CDC recommends one every three to four weeks for pregnant women suspected of having Zika.

Vaccine development has been slowed by a lack of funding, researchers complain. Congress took a summer break without voting on $1.9 billion that President Barack Obama asked it to allocate in February. Health officials say the earliest we could have a vaccine is 2018.

Water is where mosquitoes lay eggs. Check your yard daily for standing water in containers such as pots, wheelbarrows or wading pools. If you have a bird bath, clean it and change the water at least once a week. Drill holes in tires used in tire swings so water can’t collect inside, and remove discarded tires from your property.

X-rays are helping researchers decode the virus. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Purdue used a giant X-ray machine to map the molecular structure of NS1, the protein the virus produces, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Yap, an island in the Federated States of Micronesia, was where the first confirmed outbreak of Zika was discovered in 2007. Nearly three-quarters of Yap residents over the age of 3 were infected, according to the World Health Organization.

Zee-kah. That’s how you pronounce it, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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