Zika Virus

Dear members of the Stonehill community,

As spring break and summer travel plans are being made, we wanted to make sure that the Stonehill community was aware of a concerning virus that has been in the news and to share a health update on Zika Virus.

Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted via mosquito bites.  It is estimated that 80 percent of those infected with Zika virus are without symptoms. Symptomatic disease is usually mild and symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). There is currently no vaccine or other preventative medication for Zika virus.

Recently there have been several documented cases of Zika virus in infants born with microcephaly in Brazil. This has warranted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to issue a travel alert to regions with Zika virus outbreaks, including parts of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Samoa, and Cape Verde. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are advised to postpone travel to areas with Zika virus transmission. Travelers should also take precaution to prevent mosquito bites.

To date, there have been no local cases of Zika virus, nor any originating in the continental United States, but there have been some cases among returning travelers. According to the CDC, with the recent outbreaks and the number of cases increasing among travelers returning the United States, it is difficult to determine how widely the virus will spread. For more information, see the CDC page on Zika virus.  http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html

UPDATE: MONDAY FEBRUARY 29TH, 2016: A LETTER TO THE STONEHILL COMMUNITY

Dear Stonehill Community Members,

Since many members of our community are traveling to warmer climates during spring break, it is important to direct your attention to information about Zika virus.  As you may be aware from recent media coverage of Zika virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a travel alert to regions with Zika virus outbreaks, including parts of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Samoa, and Cape Verde.  

According to the CDC, Zika virus is chiefly spread through mosquito bites, although, recently, transmission via sexual contact, blood transfusion, and to newborns during pregnancy has been documented.  The primary risk is to pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant, as the virus is associated with birth defects in infants. For this reason, the CDC advises women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, to postpone travel to these areas.

Unlike mosquito-borne illness here in Massachusetts, Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes that bite during the day. This means that when traveling in an area with Zika virus activity, it is especially important to take steps to prevent mosquito bites during daytime hours, as well as between dusk and dawn. Please review the recommendations for prevention here: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html.

Zika symptoms are typically mild and may include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes and generally last 2–7 days. Eighty percent of those infected with Zika virus are asymptomatic. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika virus or medication to treat Zika virus.

If you are planning to travel to any of the Zika virus–affected areas over spring break, please follow the prevention guidelines. Since transmission is ongoing, areas with the virus are likely to change over time. In addition, scientists are learning more about this virus with each passing week.  For these reasons, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health site for the most updated information and make sure that you are reading the most recent update.

Below are links to information to assist in decision making and precautions for travel to these areas:

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable spring break.  

Sincerely,

Maria Sullivan, Director, Stonehill College Health Services