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The Zika Virus and Your Health: What You Need to Know

June 29, 2016

Summer and mosquitos are synonymous. But with all we’ve been hearing on the news about the Zika virus, you’re probably wondering if those little buggers are just annoying or if they could really affect your family’s plans this summer.  We’re here to help answer your questions, offer some tips and sort out the facts.

How do you get it?

We know that the Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito bite or by sex with an infected person.

How is it spreading?

So far, all of the Zika cases in the U.S. have occurred due to travel to other countries. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) and The World Health Organization, travelers have been carrying the infection to other areas. Mosquitos can pick it up from infected people and spread it to healthy people. Also, because most people don’t show any symptoms, it’s hard to track. However, the breed of mosquito known to carry the virus is migrating to the U.S.  The CDC has a map of where those mosquitos are likely to appear.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?

For most people, the infection causes no symptoms or harm at all. Only about one in five people infected will feel mildly sick with a fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes, which go away in less than a week. Get plenty of rest and fluids to feel better, and see your doctor.

Why should pregnant women take extra care?

The CDC has issued special precautions for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant because Zika can cause serious birth defects of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which infants are born with unusually small heads and brain damage) and miscarriage.

For that reason, the CDC has issued a travel advisory for pregnant women in any trimester and recommends postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is present. You can check the CDC’s travel website that will be updated frequently with a list of travel recommendations. Also, if you or your partner has traveled outside of the U.S. in the past three months, you should get tested for Zika.

How does it affect children?

Children experience the same mild symptoms as adults. So far, the evidence doesn’t suggest that Zika causes the same kind of brain infections that it causes in fetuses but research on long-term effects in children and adults is just beginning.

Can my child get Zika at summer camp?

Experts still believe the possibility is low and prevention is key. According to the CDC, “wearing insect repellant is the best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes.” Make sure your little campers know how to use bug spray safely – dousing yourself doesn’t make it any more effective. You can also look for clothing that is treated with Permethrin. One study suggests that mosquitos may be more attracted to dark color clothing than light colors. And you can buy a mosquito bed net to avoid bites at night.

How can I protect myself and my family?

Insect repellent is your best defense. Check out Consumer Reports’ updated ratings of what it considers to be most effective. Ingredients to look for include picaridin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus and/or DEET. When possible, cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants – especially if you’re going outside around dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active. And, you can always talk about Zika with your physician.

Riverside Medical Clinic is the largest provider of ambulatory care in the Inland Empire.

If you’d like to find a general physician or a specialist, please call the clinic’s physician referral line at (951) 782-3602 or go to for an online physician directory by location and specialty.

Riverside Medical Clinic