A recent survey of young adults shows that they may be more affected by the US Zika outbreak than most people realize. Many young adults in the United States are traveling to Latin America. In fact, a quarter of the 40-50 million Americans who currently live in the United States are traveling to Latin America.
Zika virus infection is thought to cause microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by small heads and incomplete brain development. An estimated 80,000 Zika-infected babies have been born in Latin America, and as many as 150,000 more may have been born with no definitive diagnosis, The CDC says. Microcephaly results in a lower IQ, a drop in birth weight, intellectual disability and developmental delays.
Adult onset Zika syndrome is characterized by abnormal joint development, cognitive function and memory issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms are usually mild, and more severe diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome tend to occur only after multiple Zika infections.
CDC estimates that 20 percent of Zika infections are in young adults. Most of the disease’s effects are seen in young women, according to CDC.
The condition is connected to driving roadways and sidewalks to where mosquitoes are born. In fact, anyone can become infected with Zika when they are bitten by an infected mosquito or can pass the virus to someone else through sex. When spread by mosquitoes, Zika can linger in the air for up to two hours before human symptoms emerge.
A CDC survey of young adults from June 2017 and June 2018 suggests that potential economic damage is likely to be higher than most people are imagining. For instance, school-age children currently residing in Latin America have the highest likelihood of being infected with Zika, but 47 percent of them are actually infected. It’s less likely for people in the United States to be infected. More than 60 percent of Americans are infected with Zika but only 11 percent develop symptoms. That’s because Zika is mainly spread through sex. The survey suggested that the rate of infection is likely to be higher among those who travel to Latin America to visit for at least one month.
Researchers concluded that Zika infections among this large group may have cost $250 million in economic activity during the survey period. “With increased media attention and awareness, we are likely to see an uptick in travel demand that would push the outbreak costs even higher,” said Benjamin Schwartz, epidemiologist and lead author of the study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
About 14 percent of respondents said that Zika has had a significant effect on their personal health. More than one-third of the people surveyed reported symptoms of Zika, despite the virus not showing any symptoms. Therefore, in terms of health, it is hard to say how many people are infected with Zika because many Americans who are infected are not aware of it.
Get help with your sexual health
Zika is most likely spread sexually. More than 7 out of 10 sexually active people have contracted an STD. More than 80 percent of sexually active people in the United States have a sexually transmitted infection. Zika can be passed from a person who does not have symptoms.
Your sex partner or a baby you are having sex with is at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection if you have symptoms of Zika infection. Zika virus infections are usually mild so your partner will not know you have had it. However, if a baby is born with microcephaly, it is more likely that the mother or the baby would have had a sexually transmitted infection, and the baby would have been affected by Zika virus infection.
Learning more about your infection status will help you make informed choices about your sexual health. For instance, if you are currently infected with Zika, you can go on the CDC website and get a test to determine whether you are infected.
The CDC also has a new sex ed program that helps provide STD prevention information. It also provides a manual that adults can use for sexuality education and prevention.