The Zika virus case has been reported in 33 different countries and territories in North and South America as of January, and the sudden outbreak of the virus is being monitored closely by the University of Houston’s Health Center.
Typically, mosquitoes in tropical areas spread the virus to people, but in rare cases, it can also be sexually transmitted. About one in five people who have contracted the virus develop symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes, which last roughly a week. There is no cure or treatment for Zika.
“The symptoms are mild, and the disease is considered to be rarely fatal,” UH professor of operations management Elizabeth Anderson Fletcher, who released research on the virus in the UH Hobby Center for Public Policy White Paper Series, said. “However, a disturbing link to microcephaly in babies has been discovered in Brazil with reports of over 4,000 babies born with this birth defect coincident to the Zika outbreak.”
The UH Health Center published travel warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for those who are planning to travel to any of the Zika affected areas, especially students who wish to study abroad. The UH Health Center recommends a student visit their health care provider if he or she return from a trip to a Zika-affected country with a fever or rash.
The Emerging Health Issues Advisory Group is also monitoring the events related to the spread of Zika.
“At this time, actions taken by the EHIA Group include sharing information from verified sources regarding the latest information available about the Zika virus in order to raise awareness,” UH director of emergency management Kelly Boysen said.
While the Zika virus is concerning because it is transmitted via mosquito bites, according to Fletcher, experts state that a large-scale epidemic like in Brazil is unlikely in the U.S. due to better air conditioning and water sanitation.
“However, we do know that the Aedes aegypti mosquito is native to parts of the southern U.S.,” Anderson Fletcher said.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women consider postponing any upcoming travel to Zika-affected areas.
In order to stay informed and kept up to date on recent news concerning the Zika virus, students should check the CDC website as well as the UH Health Center website.
“This helps spread health awareness, which in turn helps to avoid a potential outbreak,” UH Health Center Associate Director Lindsay Barber said.
According to CDC data, from Jan. 1 through Feb. 24, 107 travel-related Zika cases were reported in the U.S., with the highest numbers in Florida, New York and Texas, which had 13 cases.
“It is important for UH Students to remain informed about any and all potential health issues that may affect them or someone they know,” Barber said.