Due to the quick expansion of the Zika virus in the Americas and the increased cases of newborns diagnosed with microcephaly, possibly linked to this disease during pregnancy, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika an international health emergency. On February 23, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued also a Health Advisory after revealing that it is investigating 14 cases of the disease transmitted sexually.

We are always vigilant to ensure the wellbeing of its clients. Therefore, considering that this health threat continues to rise, we have prepared a summary with the basic facts about Zika from the most reliable available sources to help our clients and their families protect themselves.

So, what is Zika?

Zika is not a new disease. It has been around since the 1950s. It is primarily spread to people through the bite of an Aedes mosquito, the same one that carries dengue and chikungunya. Recently, it has been found that it can be spread also thru sexual interaction.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to dengue and chikungunya, but usually milder. About one in five people infected with Zika will develop symptoms, which typically include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache. However, the Zika virus diagnosis can only be confirmed by laboratory testing.

Looking at the symptoms, the disease may not sound that nasty.

So, what is the big deal?

The big deal is the complications that may result from it. In addition to the high incidence of babies born with microcephaly from mothers that were infected with Zika during pregnancy, the public health authorities in Brazil have identified also an increase in Guillain Barré syndrome that may be related to the virus. Scientist led by the World Health Organization and the CDC continue to investigate this outbreak and its relation with the above diseases and other neurological disorders. There is no conclusive evidence yet, but due to the potentially serious risk, it is very important to take precautions to avoid the disease and to prevent it from spreading.

How can we prevent Zika?

There is no vaccine for the Zika virus. However, you may follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the CDC, summarized in this article, to help you protect yourself and your family against this virus.

MOSQUITO TRANSMISSION:

The mosquito that carries Zika can live all around the world, which facilitates its dissemination. Therefore, it is essential, as an initial step, to identify and eliminate any mosquito breeding sites, by emptying, cleaning or covering containers that can hold even small amounts of water, such as buckets, flower pots and tires.

In addition, you must avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by:

  • Using insect repellent: repellents may be applied to exposed skin or to clothing, and should contain DEET. Repellents must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions. They are safe for use by pregnant women. However, do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age;
  • Wearing clothes (preferably light-colored) that cover as much of the body as possible;
  • Using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows;
  • Sleeping under mosquito nets, especially during the day, when Aedes mosquitoes are most active;
  • Covering your baby’s crib, stroller or baby carrier with mosquito’s net;
  • Treating clothing and gear with Permethrin. Make sure to read the product information for use and precautions. Do not use permethrin on the skin. It is used only to treat clothing.

SEXUAL TRANSMISSION:

According to the CDC, the Zika virus might persist in semen when it is no longer detectable in blood. There are no studies to determine how long the virus lives in this environment. However, as we mentioned before, there has been several documented cases of sexually transmitted Zika. Therefore, it is imperative to take steps to protect yourself if you have sex with a male that lives or travels to an area where Zika is found. You can do this by:

  • Engaging only in secure sexual practices, which include the correct and consistent use of condoms, or
  • Abstaining from or not having sexual activity, which is the only way to be completely safe.

SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should be extra careful because the Zika virus can be transmitted from mother to child, and the virus has been identified as a potential cause of microcephaly. The CDC recommends that:

  • If you are pregnant and you don’t live in an area where Zika has been found, consider postponing your trip.
  • If you are pregnant and your spouse or partner is a man who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission, refrain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during any type of sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy; and
  • Rigorously observe the recommendations above to avoid mosquito’s bites.

What can you do if you think you have Zika?

Currently, there is no antiviral treatment for Zika, but if you think you may have Zika, follow these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Visit your doctor if you develop a fever with rash, joint pain or red eyes, and mention to your doctor if you have visit any country where the virus is highly present.
  • Take medicine to relieve the symptoms, but don’t take aspirin until dengue is rule out.
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids, and, most importantly,
  • PREVENT ADDITIONAL MOSQUITO BITES TO AVOID SPREADING THE DISEASE. Please note that the virus usually remains in the infected person about a week or more.

Our Health Plans & Zika:

Depending on your Premier Health or  WEA Signature plan option, you may be covered 100% for doctor visits and diagnostic testing after the deductible have been met. If you have become sick and suspect that it may be Zika, please do not hesitate to visit your doctor. If you are travelling, remember, our network of providers protect you worldwide.

For our pregnant clients, the  maternity benefit, included with all of our Premier Health plan options and the WEA Signature Elite plan options, and through an optional rider for the rest of the WEA plan options , will cover, up to the limits of the option selected, your visits to the gynecologist. Discuss with your doctor if you or your partner, have, had, or have been exposed to Zika. Your doctor will closely monitor your pregnancy to ensure your baby’s health. Keep in mind that your plan option may also cover complications of pregnancy, and congenital disorders, birth defects and hereditary conditions, such as microcephaly, a rare condition where a baby has an abnormally small head, for babies born of covered pregnancies. Please visit our website to check your plan’s schedule of benefits or learn more about our Premier Health and WEA Signature health plans.

RESOURCES:

The post Our Health Plans Help Protect Clients Against the Zika Virus appeared first on PA Group – We Are With You.

Source: Health – English