Here's why you should care about the Zika virus

Posted at 1:50 PM, Apr 26, 2016

More than 40 countries are currently experiencing a Zika virus outbreak. 

The virus has made headlines in recent months due to its impact in Asia, the Americas and the Pacific. Most of the headlines read that some babies born to mothers infected with Zika have microcephaly — they are born with brain abnormalities and small heads.

Currently, Zika is not greatly impacting the U.S. — so why should its citizens be concerned?

1. Mosquitos can carry Zika, and ... 'tis the season for mosquitos. The U.S. is about to enter summertime. Read: More mosquitos and more bug bites. The World Health Organization said during large outbreaks in Brazil and French Polynesia in the past three years, neurological and auto-immune complications in people with Zika were reported. Currently in the U.S., any reported Zika cases have been due to transmission via sexual intercourse, but mosquito-bite transmission could be possible as temperatures increase and more mosquitos are around to bite. WHO says insect repellents you wear need to contain DEET, IR3535 or Icaridin. Look at product labels when purchasing bug spray.

2. People travel more in the summertime, and thus can bring Zika home to the U.S. Plain and simple, travel outside of the country means a higher risk of exposure to Zika. You know how the front desk employees at doctor's offices are always asking if you've traveled outside of the U.S.? They've been asking in case of exposure to Ebola. That epidemic has faded, but now we can add Zika to the reasons why health care providers want to know where you've been. 

3. Having the Zika virus makes you feel like you have the flu — sort of. Symptoms are mild, but they include fever, rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and headaches, according to WHO. You'll be down for the count and likely miss some work. (Note: WHO says it takes a few days following exposure for signs of Zika to appear.) Plan on being sick for 2 to 7 days.

4. There is no vaccine. No specific treatment means you're just going to have to let it happen. Rest. Stay hydrated. Common medicines for fever and muscle pain are fine, WHO says.

The good people at WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are on top of the Zika virus problem. WHO has produced a Global Emergency Response Plan that involves providing training to health care workers and strengthening labs to detect the virus.

They also have recommendations for those who have had Zika for following up with clinical care.