UPDATE 6/21/16: Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen provides the following guidance for Baltimoreans:
Virus Zika: Preguntas y respuestas con al Comisionado de Salud.
If you have not traveled outside of the US to a country with Zika transmission, there is no cause for alarm, because Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, not through casual contact.
If you have traveled to a country with Zika transmission and you are not a pregnant woman, watch for symptoms. Most people with Zika do not have symptoms; some may have mild symptoms like rash, fever, body aches, headaches, and red eyes, but they go away without treatment. Contact your doctor if you develop symptoms. If you are a man with a pregnant partner, and you have traveled to an area with Zika transmission, abstain from sex or use a condom every time.
If you are pregnant with recent travel to a country with Zika transmission, contact your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women with or without symptoms to be tested for Zika as there are possible associations with birth defects, such as microcephaly. If you have not yet traveled and you are pregnant, consult the CDC website and check with your doctor before you book your trip.
This is a quickly developing situation. The Baltimore City Health Department is closely monitoring and working with our State and Federal partners. For more information, visit the BCHD website and CDC website.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Baltimore City Health Department continues to monitor the movement of the virus, particularly among travelers. We have sent letters (attachments below) to Baltimore City Clinicians to update them on recent events surrounding Zika Virus and urge them to follow CDC guidelines when seeing patients with a history of travel to an area with ongoing Zika transmission.
Q: What is Zika and why is there so much news about it?
A: Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread by mosquito bite. It has existed since 1947 in Africa and Asia, but has only been in the Americas since 2007. There is concern that Zika in Brazil has resulted in thousands of babies been born with abnormally small heads and brain damage. In February 2016, the World Health Organization has declared Zika a global public health emergency. It has spread to more than 45 countries, including those in the Caribbean, Central and South Americas, and the Pacific Islands/Oceana.
Q: What are the symptoms of Zika? Is there treatment or a vaccine?
A: Most people with Zika don’t have symptoms at all. About 1 in 5 people will have symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) or headaches. Most people will have a mild infection, which require no hospitalization and go away on their own. There is no anti-viral treatment and no vaccine to prevent from getting Zika at this time, though researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine against Zika.
Q: How is Zika transmitted?
A: Zika is transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. Zika can be transmitted by a man to his sexual partners. Zika cannot be transmitted via casual contact, such as shaking someone’s hand. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and from an infected pregnant mother to her baby.
Q: Are there any local mosquito-borne cases in Baltimore?
At the moment, there are no cases of local mosquito-borne illnesses in Baltimore or in the continental U.S. Maryland currently has 25 travel-associated cases. There are now about 756 travel-associated cases in the continental U.S. and 1,440 cases in the territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is likely that a traveler infected with Zika could return to Baltimore. The Baltimore City Health Department is closely monitoring the situation with our state and federal partners.
Q: Should I worry that I will get Zika?
If you have traveled to an area with Zika virus, talk to your doctor about your risk for Zika virus infection. An updated list of countries with Zika can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html. If you have not traveled recently to a country affected with Zika, you do not have Zika.
Q: If Zika is sexually transmitted, should I abstain from sex?
A: Zika can be passed from an infected man during sex. Men who have traveled to Zika areas who have a pregnant partner or one who is thinking of becoming pregnant should abstain from sex or use condoms every time for the rest of her pregnancy. Women who are not pregnant and infected with Zika should wait at least eight weeks after symptoms started to become pregnant. Men who are infected with Zika and with a partner who plans to become pregnant should wait until six months after symptoms started.
Q: Should I get tested for Zika?
A: If you have not traveled to a country with Zika recently, and have not had sex with someone who has traveled to one of those countries, then you do not have Zika. If you have traveled to one of these countries but are not pregnant, you do not need to get tested for Zika unless you have symptoms—then you can ask your doctor about testing. If you have traveled to these areas and are pregnant, even if you do not have symptoms, you should ask your doctor about testing.
Q: Should I travel?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking all pregnant women to consider postponing travel to areas with Zika transmission. If you must travel, talk to your doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. Women trying to become pregnant should speak with their doctors before traveling.
Q: How can I prevent from getting Zika?
A: Do not travel to a country with Zika transmission. If you are planning travel, the best way to avoid being infected is to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so watch for areas of standing water and get rid of them. Always use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant (http://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you). Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Stay in places with air conditioning or that use screens on doors and windows.
Q: Where do I go for more information?
A: The Baltimore City Health Department has more information at http://health.baltimorecity.gov/zika-virus. You can follow us on Twitter at @BMore_Healthy. The CDC has comprehensive Zika information available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/. The situation with Zika is changing quickly, and we will provide regular updates, especially coming into the Spring and Summer months.
This is a developing situation and guidelines may change. We are working very closely with State and federal officials and recommend that you regularly check the CDC Zika Virus website (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html) for the most recent updates.