Zika: What You Need To Know

Warm weather is on its way, and it’s perfect for mosquitos! Some mosquitos might carry the Zika virus, so you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. Mary’s Center’s Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr Sarah Ali, tells you how!

Dr. Ali, What Is Zika? Why Are People Still Talking About Zika In The DC Area?

  • Zika is a tropical disease that is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito, the Aedes mosquito. This is the same type of mosquito that spreads the viruses that cause dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
  • Although we are hearing a lot about Zika now, it’s been around for quite some time. It was first discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947, and has since caused outbreaks in Africa and Asia. More recently, it began spreading to the Western Hemisphere in May 2015, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil.
  • About 1 in 5 people who are infected with Zika will develop symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
  • Most people recover from the virus within a week and do not require hospitalization, but it is important to be aware of Zika because there is increasing evidence that it may be linked to serious birth defects in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant.

Is Zika A Threat To The DC Area? What Areas Is Zika Likely To Reach?

  • Aedes mosquitos thrive in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and are known to live throughout South, Central, and North America.
  • In the United States, this mosquito is common in Florida, Hawaii, and the Gulf Coast but has also been found as far north as Washington, D.C.
  • Warm, wet weather conditions are favorable for mosquitos, so weather patterns may affect how quickly and how far the virus spread.
  • Almost 500 cases of travel-associated Zika virus disease have been reported in the US, including more than 40 pregnant women. All cases involve travelers who were infected abroad, except for 10 cases involving sexual transmission.

What Can I Do To Prevent Zika?

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from Zika is to prevent transmission. Protect yourself from mosquito bites!

  • Aedes mosquitos are aggressive, and bite during the daytime hours, so if traveling to an affected area, wear protective clothing (pants, long sleeves) throughout the day.
  • Use an insect repellant that contains DEET (or that has been certified by an independent agency as effective against mosquitos).
  • Whenever possible, stay indoors in a building that has window/door screens or air conditioning.
  • Mosquitos breed in water, and they only need a small amount of it to multiply (flower pots, old tires in yard, bottle tops, etc.), so get rid of any stagnant water that may have collected.


What Other Precautions Should Pregnant Women Take?

  • Although the majority of Zika infections are transmitted by mosquitoes, not sex, there have been reports of the virus being transmitted through intercourse, and there is still a lot that we don’t know about Zika.
  • At present, the CDC is recommending that all women who are pregnant should consider postponing travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus.
  • If you are a male that lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika transmission, and your partner is pregnant, you should use condoms every time you have intercourse. Not having sex is the only way to be sure to prevent sexually transmitted Zika virus.
  • Pregnant women should talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider if they or their male sex partners recently traveled to an area with Zika, even if they don’t feel sick.

Has Mary’s Center Seen Cases Of Zika?

No, but it is important to be aware of potential risks and how to minimize them.

How is Mary’s Center Preparing For Zika?    

  • We have been educating all the providers at MC about Zika, with handouts and have a system in place in order to evaluate symptoms of possible virus exposure.
  • We have guidelines in place in order to submit necessary paperwork, ensure proper documentation and lab submission, follow up on testing, blood delivery, results, as well as arranging necessary consultations and follow up with myself for any possible cases and positive tests.

Don’t hesitate to contact Mary’s Center if you have more questions.

Call 1-844-796-2797 to make an appointment with our Infectious Diseases specialist.

About Dr. Ali:

Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Dr Sarah Ali joined the Mary’s Center team in August 2015. She is based at our Georgia Avenue site in Petworth, DC. Dr. Ali attended medical school at the American University of the Caribbean. She completed her residency training in Internal Medicine at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan, New York. She then completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Ali, is from Lafayette, Louisiana and loves exploring the city, painting, and running with her dog, Pepe.


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