DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) -Health officials at Duncan Regional Hospital are taking precautions to inform patients about the Zika virus.
The virus is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, and is found in many tropical areas of the world. But some cases have been reported recently in the United States, including Texas.
Scientists believe there could be a link between the virus and birth defects and neurological problems in newborns, so it's primarily a concern for pregnant women. For the rest of us, symptoms are relatively mild: fever, rash and joint pain, which usually goes away in about a week.
The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency this week, prompting Duncan Regional Hospital to beef up their inpatient screening process.
Health officials say often times, a person may not even know they have the Zika virus. As an added precaution, they've placed a sign at the entrance of the emergency room to remind to those who have recently traveled outside of the country to inform their doctor.
Duncan Regional Hospital infection preventionist and registered nurse Cheryl Morrison says they try to make sure their staff of nurses and doctors have the tools necessary to stay ahead of the next disease.
"We have an infectious disease team that we train year-round, or need be to make sure we're always ready for something that would require specific isolation," Morrison said.
Morrison says for the average person, the Zika virus is very similar to the common cold. They even share a lot of the same symptoms: fever, muscle aches and red eye. Morrison says symptoms usually develop within two to three days of travel, or being exposed to the disease. But, for those who travel to the affected areas and pregnant women, the disease poses the greatest risk.
"Some babies may have other neurological problems and even some of the mothers that contract it may have long term neurological problems," Morrison said.
Morrison says because the symptoms are so minimal, the disease is dormant in the body after a month. She says if a woman is looking to get pregnant and is infected, she should still be able to have a family after a month of treatment, and with a doctor's supervision.
"Here in the United States and Oklahoma during summer months…wear your mosquito repellent, don't go outside when mosquitoes are active, cover up, just be proactive," Morrison said.
Morrison says there is not a cure for the virus right now, but she also says the type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus is not found in Oklahoma.
Morrison says treatment does not require a hospital stay, and is usually as minimal as Tylenol…depending on the type of symptoms you may have.