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The more research that is done on the Zika virus, the more researchers learn of its long-lasting effects. One of the newest findings? The link between the virus and hearing loss. One of the most impactful ways to protect you and your family from Zika is maintaining awareness when you’re traveling and after. Read on to find out a little bit more about Zika and what you can do to protect you and your family from the virus while traveling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Zika is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and is transmitted a number of ways: from mother to child, through sex, through blood transfusion, or through laboratory or healthcare setting exposure.
- There is no cure for Zika; however, in most cases the immune system eventually gets rid of it.
- While everyone can be affected by the virus, Zika is found to be most harmful to an unborn child whose mother was infected during pregnancy. This can cause birth defects like microcephaly, which results in abnormal smallness of the circumference of the child’s head. Often babies with this condition have smaller brains that may not have developed properly. This can lead to hearing loss.
- For Zika’s adult victims, most are asymptomatic. If there are symptoms, they include fever, rash, headaches, muscle/joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and sensitivity to light. These symptoms last about a week.
- Some countries that have experienced Zika outbreaks have reported increases in the numbers of people who have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).
- Zika can be tested for with a blood or urine sample.
Does Zika Cause Hearing Loss or Tinnitus?
National Public Radio (NPR) spoke with Dr. Viviane Boaventura, an ENT specialist who works with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a Brazilian medical research giant.
“After Zika, they started with some symptoms like vertigo or dizziness and hearing loss and tinnitus [ringing in the ears],”
says Boaventura, who in 2016 was studying 10 patients suspected of having had Zika.
Up to two months after contracting the virus, Boaventura reports, the 10 patients experienced measurable and significant hearing loss and lightheadedness. Because microcephaly is a proven effect of the Zika virus in infants, it puts children at risk for hearing loss, a possible side effect of the condition.
Where you live, your travel history, and the travel history of your sex partner(s) can affect your odds of contracting Zika.
Other ways to protect yourself, your friends, and your loved ones from getting Zika:
- Protect against mosquito bites
- Use condoms when having intercourse
- Check out CDC’s travel information site when planning travel