As the CDC calls for nationwide blood testing for Zika virus, someone in Maine might wonder exactly what the risk is here in Maine. The answer is either slight or the same as in Miami.
The risk of getting Zika is slight if you think about it as a mosquito borne illness, because we don’t (currently) have the mosquitoes known to pass the virus. But the risk is the same as Miami (or anywhere in the mosquito belt) if you have unprotected sex with someone who might have been exposed.
Asking your partner if they’ve had Zika isn’t enough, because the CDC confirmed today that Zika can be passed by symptomless partners. “The man said he had been exposed to mosquitoes during his travels, but had not experienced fever, rash, conjunctivitis, or other hallmarks of Zika before or after returning to the United States.”
The bottom line is that 80% of people exposed to Zika won’t show symptoms so we need to move away from the mosquito warnings and start focusing on the reality of a rampant STD that we still aren’t treating or warning people about appropriately.
At the same time, I wish public health officials would dial back the terror for pregnant women. As I point out in my book, The Bare Essentials of Zika Virus, the official estimate for birth defects is about 1% for women who develop symptoms. I also believe the risk from Zika alone is less than that because co-infections may be necessary to cause microcephaly (small heads). You can find more research (or buy my book) here.