PTD0816_ZikaSince Zika virus was first discovered nearly 70 years ago, minor outbreaks in humans have occurred throughout the world, usually in tropical regions, with the first large outbreak occurring about 10 years ago. Recently, scientists have connected Zika virus with birth defects.

As the climate continues to change, Zika virus will likely become more prevalent in the United States. Zika virus is usually spread by mosquito bites, although infected people can transmit the virus to others through sexual contact. While Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain and redness in the whites of the eye, most people who contract Zika virus will never even know it; only one in five people will display the mild, flu-like symptoms.

So should you worry about Zika virus? For most people, the dangers are minimal. But if you or your partner is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, Zika virus poses a serious threat. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a link between Zika virus infections in expectant mothers and birth defects, especially microcephaly, which can lead to severe mental disabilities and even death. No one yet knows what the connection is or how likely this is to happen in infected mothers.

You can reduce your risk of being infected by Zika virus by taking several simple steps.

  • Avoid travel to areas where Zika virus has been reported. The CDC Web site has a list of these areas.
  • Take steps to avoid mosquito bites. This includes wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, along with staying in air-conditioned buildings equipped with window and door screens.
  • See a doctor if you or your partner is pregnant and may have been exposed to Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

Should you show the symptoms of Zika virus, you might want to ease off on your exercise regimen for a few days until you feel better. If you exercise outdoors, take sensible precautions: avoid mosquito-infested areas and cover up your skin whenever mosquitoes are present.