But how much should people in Westfield be concerned about these diseases? Well, according to infectious disease specialist Dr. Eric Granowitz, who practices for both Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Noble, it depends on a variety of factors.
“Risk is defined as both likelihood and magnitude,” Granowitz said.
“Some things are really likely and other things are really unlikely, but if those unlikely things have severe consequences it’s not considered ideal,” he said.
The consequences of Zika, as many people now know, can be drastic. Reports of microcephaly–a birth defect where the brain becomes improperly formed and a child’s head will be undersized–as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome–a neurological disorder that strikes the peripheral nervous system–have both been linked to Zika.
However, the rate of incidence is what may be misunderstood. Granowitz said that the rate of microcephaly in Brazil in 2010, where the outbreak first started, was six out of 100,000 births. In 2015, the rate increased to 100 out of 100,000, according to one study. This shows that although it is happening at a higher rate, the risk still remains relatively low. Additionally, it is uncertain how many of the microcephaly cases were directly attributable to the Zika virus.
One point that researchers are confident about is that the transmission rates in the US states are virtually nonexistent, and travel is the only culprit of transmission. Also, according to the CDC the largest amount of cases in any US state is still under 300, which is New York at 285, and Mass. actually has the fifth highest incidence rate with just 39 cases.
Granowitz suggests that the easiest way to prevent acquiring the disease it to avoid traveling to countries where Zika is currently spreading. However, if travel is necessary or if you have already traveled to one of the infected countries, abstain from sexual contact for at least eight weeks. Granowitz said that the eight-week window is from the CDC as of March 25.
Additionally, in order to prevent transmission from mosquitos, Granowitz and the CDC suggest using bug repellents such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol to prevent bites. Also, staying inside while mosquitos are at their most active will help prevent transmission, and getting rid of any standing water where mosquitos may lay eggs will help prevent exposure.
The CDC also warns to not use any bug repellents on children younger than 2 months old, and do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under 3 years old.
If you are concerned that you may have transmitted the disease, Granowitz said that four out of five people who are infected will not show symptoms. This can be a good sign, since the CDC reports that just 0.3 percent of women who are asymptomatic actually became infected, according to Granowitz.
If you have been exposed, symptoms for the disease, in order of prevalence, include: itchy rash, fever, achy hands and feet, headache and conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”