4 Facts about the Zika Virus

By Dr. Michael Szabo

Medical Director, Ingle International

The Zika virus continues to be a hot topic in infectious disease circles. I discussed with University Health Network Infectious Disease physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch what he feels are the biggest news items about this interesting virus at this time. Here are his top 4:

  1. Zika has arrived in the USA. There are well-documented cases of exposure in both South Florida and in Brownsville, Texas, so anyone travelling to those areas needs to beware.
  1. Zika can harm a developing baby at any time. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine published on December 15, 2016, looked at 182 infected pregnant women in Rio de Janeiro and found that adverse outcomes were noted regardless of the trimester during which the women acquired the Zika: 55% of pregnancies had adverse outcomes after maternal infection in the first trimester, 52% after infection in the second trimester, and 29% after infection in the third trimester.
  1. Zika persists in semen for much longer than other bodily fluids. Another New England Journal of Medicine article published on February 14, 2017, has shown that Zika remains in the semen for much longer after someone has been infected than in other bodily fluids such as urine, vaginal secretions, saliva or blood. There is little virus ever in the saliva or vaginal secretions.  However, it is present in the urine, blood and semen for up to 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 3 months respectively. The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines state that infected women should not conceive until 8 weeks after their symptoms started and just to be safe men should refrain from sexual contact for 6 months. To be extra safe, assume you were exposed if you were in any area of Zika risk, even if you didn’t develop symptoms, and wait for 8 weeks if you are a woman or 6 months if you are a man.
  1. A Zika vaccine is in the works. Phase 1 trials are now underway for testing a vaccine for Zika so this is good news, but it will likely be until 2019 or 2020 that we see a vaccine available to the general public.

Planning to travel south? For a smooth trip, don’t forget your insurance.

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