Oklahoma Doctor Explains What The Zika Virus Is

Wednesday, February 3rd 2016, 5:27 pm
By: News 9

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the rapid spread of the Zika virus.

However, many Oklahomans had never heard of Zika virus until this year.

Dr. Hal Scofield with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation said the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness.

Only 1 in 5 people infected actually develop symptoms.

Others never know they have it.

“Like West Nile, 80 percent of people who are infected don't even know they have it, they're not sick at all,” Scofield said.  “They get infected and nothing happens to them."

Zika symptoms are fever, rash, red eyes, headache and body aches.

It lasts several days to a week, then it is gone and you are immune to it.

“It's short-lived and goes away in a week or so and there are not really much long-term consequences,” Scofield told News 9.

However, for pregnant women, the infection has caused a birth defect called microcephaly where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

More than 4,000 cases have been confirmed in Brazil since October.

So far, the U.S. cases of Zika involve people who traveled to Central or South America, then returned infected.

The concern in Oklahoma is that two types of mosquitoes commonly found here can carry the Zika virus, just like they carry West Nile.

“It's that mosquito that bites you at dusk, and sometimes at sunrise,” Scofield explained.

OMRF said there is some evidence that Zika may also be transmitted sexually, but more research is needed.

There is no cure or vaccine for Zika virus.

For the average American who is not traveling to affected areas, there is nothing to worry about.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is monitoring the Zika situation, sending information to physicians and is coordinating with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Click here to learn more about the virus.