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Reminder from Iredell Health System: Be Smart About Zika

07/15/2016

An expecting parent’s number one wish is for a happy, healthy baby. National news coverage of the Zika virus has sparked concern amongst parents, though, mostly due to a fear of the unknown.

As mosquitos – which are blamed for spreading the virus in Central and South America – begin to breed and bite close to home, experts at Iredell Health System are offering advice to help expectant parents and their families avoid contracting Zika, which can cause severe birth defects in unborn babies.

For many adults and children, the symptoms of a Zika infection are usually mild and can include fever, rash and joint pain – or they may have no symptoms at all. Pregnant women infected with Zika may also have similar or no symptoms. Although the virus may not be transmitted to the fetus of every pregnant woman infected with Zika, there is a potential risk that the virus will be passed on to their unborn children, causing a birth defect called microcephaly. The condition causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and brains, often leading to intellectual disabilities and seizures. Some of the children born with those conditions will require intensive care for the rest of their lives.

So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control has confirmed more than 1,200 cases of Zika in the United States, but none of those people were infected in the U.S. Instead, they were likely bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus while traveling outside the country. That does not mean Iredell County residents are completely safe from Zika, though.
“An outbreak is possible in North Carolina as the number of Zika cases increase,” said Pam Gill, Director of Infection Prevention at Iredell Memorial Hospital, part of Iredell Health System.

As a result, Iredell Health System is taking a proactive approach to screen pregnant patients for Zika. Gill said Iredell Memorial Hospital and physicians that are part of Iredell Health System are following state guidelines for surveillance and reporting. That means pregnant women can expect questions from their doctor or nurse about their recent travel and how they are feeling. Women who have been in countries where Zika is widespread and are experiencing symptoms may go through additional screening.

There are a number of things that can be done to protect an individual’s health and reduce the chances of a Zika infection. According to Gill, people should think carefully about where they travel this summer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports active transmission in more than 40 countries and territories. The list includes vacation hotspots like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The CDC recommends pregnant women postpone travel to areas where Zika is spreading. And, Gill said, the virus can also be spread through sexual contact, not just a mosquito bite, so if someone’s partner has traveled to areas of concern, there is a potential they could transmit Zika.

Gill also had advice for avoiding mosquito bites and preventing a Zika infection. Empty or turn over items that hold water outside of your home and make sure pools have the proper chlorination. Bug sprays can also be effective if used correctly.

“Use EPA approved insect repellent when outside,” said Gill, “and follow label directions and precautions, especially for babies and children.”

For more information, please contact LaToya Boyce at 704.878.7738.

Categories: General News