While always a good idea, the advice from “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” can be difficult to put into practice. The Zika virus is the latest bit of alarming news that has a lot of people upset and frightened. Today, we look at the facts. Then, if panic is in order, we will proceed as a group and in an orderly fashion to the nearest information shelter.  Like a library!

Fact: Zika is not a new thing. It has been around since at least 1947 and is common in Africa and Asia. The current outbreak is getting a lot of attention because of its rapid spread in the Americas. With the lack of exposure, few people in the Western Hemisphere have developed natural immunity to the virus.

Fact: Zika is typically a mild disease. Four out of five people infected with the virus don’t become ill at all. Others experience symptoms that resemble a cold or the flu (fever, rash, body aches, and eye irritation) which last a few days. It is very rare that a person with Zika develops serious complications.

Fact: not all mosquitoes spread the virus. Only the genus Aedes are known to carry Zika.  The aedes mosquitoes are common in the Gulf Coast area and Hawaii. Unfortunately, they range into the eastern half of the United States in hot weather.

Fact: Zika is a concern for pregnant women because it appears to damage the developing fetus, resulting in serious birth defects including microcephaly. It is important, however, to remember that not all the facts are in yet. As stated in the New York Times, “investigators may even find that Zika virus is not the main cause, although right now circumstantial evidence suggests that it is.” IF you are pregnant and concerned about possible exposure, talk with your doctor.

Fact: reliable information is on the CDC website.  It is updated regularly, as was the case when the first known transmission occurred in the United States through sexual contact.  This is an evolving story and the information will change over time.

Opinion: There is no need to panic. Remain calm and stay informed. Medical science has figured out how to protect us from a lot of illnesses.  This one will get the research attention it deserves.