What is Zika?
Zika is a virus spread via infected mosquitoes or from having sex with an infected individual. Most cases are being reported in South America but recently two neighborhoods in Miami, Florida have also been identified as having Zika carrying mosquitoes. Most people that are infected with Zika will not have much of an illness (perhaps some flu-like symptoms). However, if a woman contracts the virus while pregnant it can cause serious birth defects—especially microcephaly (babies born with very small brains and heads). Another rare complication of Zika infection is a neurologic disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome. Patients experience progressive weakness in the arms and legs. Currently there is no vaccine or medication to treat Zika.
Will Zika Make My Pulmonary Hypertension Worse?
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain, and headache. These symptoms are mild and usually last for less than a week. Most patients, including PAH patients, will not become ill enough to go to the hospital and may not even realize they have the virus. The virus remains in the blood for about seven days and can be detected by blood work.
The Zika virus is most dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects. Women with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension are regularly counseled not to become pregnant. If a female Pulmonary Hypertension patient became pregnant and contracted the Zika virus she would have an increased risk of complications and birth defects.
How Can I Prevent Zika?
The best way to prevent getting Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Avoid known areas of Zika carrying mosquitoes. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside in areas where mosquitoes are present. Remove standing water from around your home. Use air conditioning or ensure that window and door screens are intact. Insect repellent is also a great defense.