Health Gone Viral
Are you worried about Zika? Do we really have to worry about flu? Read on for some up-to–date, timely information on viral infections and health.
Are you tired of hearing about Zika? Probably not if you are thinking about having a child or anticipating the birth of a grandchild. Remember Ebola? It will likely pop back into your mind if you or a loved one is traveling to parts of Africa. H1N1? Avian flu? SARS? What about Hepatitis C or HIV? What about the common “cold”? The list goes on.
The past few years have seen viral infections make the headline news. When these viruses bubble up to the surface of our attention there is an almost immediate outcry of “DO SOMETHING” from the public and the media until the topic settles into the background noise of our familiar daily routine.The truth is we live in the midst of these and many other viruses that continue to cause illness and death around the world.
Let’s take a look at two viruses currently in the news.
Zika virus is initially passed to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The viral infection may cause a few mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Once a man is infected he can pass the virus sexually to his partner for many months after being infected, regardless of the presence or absence of physical symptoms of Zika infection.
Two groups of people carry the greatest pregnancy-related health risk.
- Pregnant women. If a woman is pregnant and becomes infected with Zika or if a woman is infected and then becomes pregnant, the virus may cause lifelong health problems or even death of her unborn child. The CDC has a list of countries to which pregnant women should avoid traveling to.
- Men and women who would like to conceive a child in the near future. Research has shown that Zika can live in semen for many months after a man has been infected, even if he doesn't have symptoms of illness. The virus can then be passed between sexual partners. The CDC recommends delaying pregnancy for 6 months after last possible exposure to Zika.
What can we do for protection?
- Use insect repellent 24/7 if you are traveling to a Zika risk area. The mosquito that carries this virus typically lives in the cities and bites in the daytime however there is a lower risk at nighttime as well.
- Abstain from sexual activity or use condoms for 6 months after last possible Zika exposure to prevent passing the virus to your sexual partner.
- Pregnant women should abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy if her partner has any risk of Zika infection.
- Visit the CDC for more information.
It is flu season again. Influenza is a yearly occurrence for us in the USA. It’s usual, it’s common, we are accustomed to living through season after season. Even though influenza is common, people still die every year from influenza. The death rate in the United States from seasonal influenza or its complications ranges from 3000 to 49,000 people per season, depending on the strain of virus causing illness. Elderly people and children are usually those highest risk for death.These viruses spread very easily between people. The thing is, vaccination is available. While the vaccine may not completely prevent influenza illness, it does reduce the risk of severe complications, hospitalizations and death from influenza. A vaccination will provide protection for yourself, as well as minimizing the risk of you spreading the illness with someone more vulnerable such as a child, parent or grandparent. In addition to vaccination, use good hygiene measures to prevent influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
How do we beat viral illnesses?
Participate in regular physical activity.
Eat from a wide variety of foods.
Get plenty of rest.
Avoid tobacco and other substance use.
Limit the amount of alcohol consumed.
Wash your hands frequently.
Cover your coughs and sneezes.
Don’t share the illness: if you are ill, stay home from school or work.
Our best offense is a good defense. Work toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This will provide support to our immune system which does a really good job at protecting us from many viral illnesses.
Know our opponent. Become familiar with the viral illnesses that may be a risk to our health. Our risk varies based on location, time of year, age and current health status.
Have a game plan. Each viral infection has a different game plan which can cause us health problems. Different viruses affect different body systems causing different physical symptoms. Many times there are things we can do to minimize our risk for infection.
Go for the win. There are treatments and vaccines available for some viral infections. It never hurts to check with our health care provider to determine if there is a way to prevent or treat viruses that threaten our health. Meanwhile researchers are continuing to study viruses and develop prevention or treatment measures to protect our health.