What you need to know about Zika

CDC Says Hawaii Not Ready for Zika, Department of Health Responds

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Global fears about the rapid spread of the Zika virus and its link to a serious birth defect have caused particular concern in Hawaii, which is grappling with an outbreak of a different mosquito-borne virus.

Hawaii's dengue fever outbreak dates back to September, and has stretched state and county resources and sickened more than 240 Hawaii Island residents and visitors.

State health officials stress that the Zika virus is not an immediate threat to Hawaii. That said, they do say they're preparing for the virus, in case it spreads to the state.

So what is Zika and should you be concerned? What you need to know:

What is the Zika virus?

Zika is caused by the Zika virus and spread by mosquitoes.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. About 1 in 5 adults infected with Zika will actually get sick. Symptoms are typically mild and lasts several days to a week.

More recently, the most alarming element of Zika has been its link to a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with small heads and brains.

Health experts now know that the Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby, which is why pregnant women are being asked to postpone travel to Zika-affected areas.

How is Zika transmitted?

Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that transmit Zika are present in Hawaii (and are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever).

Zika can also be transmitted from an infected pregnant mother to her baby. In isolated cases, sexual transmission of Zika has been reported.

What can people do to prevent from becoming infected with Zika?

The CDC is advising people, especially pregnant women, to postpone travel to Zika-affected areas.

Zika travel notices have been issued for American Samoa and Samoa, Mexico, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Cape Verde.

In American Samoa and Samoa, local transmission of the Zika virus was reported in November 2015. That means mosquitoes in the area have been infected with Zika and can spread it to people.

The best prevention against Zika is to not get bit by mosquitoes. The CDC advises people in affected areas to wear mosquito repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants, and stay in places with air conditioners or mosquito screens.

Has anyone been sickened with Zika in Hawaii?

No one has contracted the Zika virus in Hawaii.

"There's never been and right now there is no risk of the Zika virus in Hawaii," said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

In mid-January, the state Health Department announced a baby born in Hawaii with microcephaly had tested positive for the Zika virus. It was the first such case in the United States.

The baby's mother contracted the virus while in Brazil in May 2015.

But officials stressed neither the baby nor the mother are infectious, and said there was no risk of transmission in the state.

Is Hawaii prepared for the Zika virus?

Lawmakers and others have raised concerns about Hawaii's preparedness for Zika, and the state Health Department has acknowledged it's working to bolster resources to address the Zika threat.

In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report that the state's response to the dengue outbreak – including its staffing shortages – raises questions about Hawaii's ability to deal with any other mosquito-borne virus, including the Zika virus.

"Longer term, introductions of other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and chikungunya are likely and will require entomologic expertise at the state Department of Health that currently does not exist," the CDC report said.

Is there a vaccine for Zika?

No vaccine for Zika is currently available in the market, though one is under development.


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