elite-daily-Zika-Virus-800x400The Zika virus has forced many of us to think about mosquitoes in the middle of winter.  This virus, which was first reported in Uganda in 1947, recently made its way to America.  It likely came from the Micronesian islands in the South Pacific, where over 70% of the population were infected in 2007.  It was first spotted on Easter Island in early 2015, and by the end of the year there were over 1 million cases of Zika in Brazil.

Zika first made headlines because of an alarming spike in the number of Brazilian babies born with microcephaly.  There were 4000 cases reported in 2015, compared to 500 the year before, and Zika is almost certainly the reason.  Zika made the news again when the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel advisory warning pregnant women about Zika in Central America.

The media thrives on fear, but some numbers will put this in perspective.  About 1 in 5 people who get infected with the Zika virus actually develop the illness.  The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and irritated eyes, lasting up to one week.  If you are pregnant or get pregnant within 2-3 weeks of getting infected, the risk of microcephaly is about 1 in 400.

If you are not pregnant, the short-term risks are low.  In the long-term, Zika may be linked to the chronic pain, fatigue and other vague symptoms that afflict many of our patients.  Over the years, these symptoms have been linked to Epstein-Barr viruses and other microbes.

For those of you who have a trip planned to Central America, I would suggest you go and enjoy yourselves without fear.  Just take precautions.  While spraying ourselves with DEET is not the most pleasant idea for many of us, a post-vacation course of sauna therapy can help flush it from your body.  Lemon eucalyptus oil is a known effective insect repellant.  Wear long sleeves and light colours.  Consider taking a B12 supplement to make you smell less like mosquito lunch.

If you or someone you know develops problems after a Zika infection, let us know.  We can help.

Happy winter

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