What You Need to Know About Zika Virus

Dr. Thomas L. Simmer, M.D.

| 3 min read

SVP and Chief Medical Officer

If you have heard about the Zika virus and are wondering what it is and the impact it may have, you’re not alone. In January the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel alert for several popular vacation destinations due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects. With confirmed cases being reported in Michigan and many Michiganders seeking sunnier skies in infected areas this spring, we’ve compiled a few facts our members in Michigan and beyond should keep in mind about the Zika virus: What is Zika and what are the symptoms? The Zika virus disease (also referred to as Zika) is a disease that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). However, the Zika virus can also present as asymptomatic, meaning people affected may have very mild symptoms or none at all. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of people who contract the virus actually show no symptoms. The risk lies heavily with pregnant women contracting the virus, with results that can be much more severe. Can you prevent the Zika virus? If you’re planning a vacation to a warm-weather destination in the near future, Blues Cross recommends educating yourself on prevention prior to packing. Affected mosquitos bite mostly during the day, so pack EPA-registered insect repellant and re-apply after swimming or strenuous physical activity. Aside from just a mosquito bite, cases of the disease being passed through sexual transmission have been reported. It is recommended that should you travel to an infected country, you take precautions when travelling. Taking the proper steps toward prevention can protect yourself, as well as your fellow Michiganders upon your return. How does my Blue Cross coverage help? When traveling, especially outside the United States, it’s always important to check that your health insurance coverage includes treatment outside of Michigan. For most Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network members, your health coverage goes with you when you travel, but that is not the case with all health plans. With some health plans, if you contract Zika while abroad, you may have to come back to the United States to seek treatment. Regardless of where you’re traveling, always have your health insurance card with you. It’s important to see your primary care physician right away when you return from your trip if you have any concerns you may have contracted the virus while traveling. For more information on Zika, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is an excellent resources for travelers and has a full list of destinations affected by the Zika virus and tips for travelers on prevention. Photo credit: Katja Schulz
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association