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News & Events
Zika Virus is a Danger for Senior Citizens
For several years now, we have been cautioned to protect children and people hoping to get pregnant from the Zika virus. Knowing the virus can cause birth defects, men and women between the ages of 20-35 are being warned about traveling to designated “Zika Positive” areas. While the virus is very harmful to that population, have you ever considered what might the harm be of the Zika virus spreading to aging adults in our communities? Might the effects be as scary?
Some researchers say the effects can be as harmful, if not worse, but let’s start with the basics: How does this virus even spread? Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the virus spreads in four extremely simple ways:
- Through mosquito bites
- From a pregnant woman to her fetus
- Through sex
- Through blood transfusion, which is very likely, but not yet to be confirmed
With relatively easy access to this very dangerous virus (that has no known vaccine at this time), travelers have been cautioned not to enter any exotic country without insect repellent. And now with the elder community enjoying their retirement through travel, they too can be at risk.
The truth of the matter is that the Zika virus has been reported in essentially every state in the United States. That means that even at home in your apartment or home in your retirement community, seniors need to be concerned about the virus. If you are going to be outside enjoying activities, be sure you have insect repellent in some form.
The older humans get, the weaker our immune systems get.
Fighting off viruses becomes more difficult than ever before. Specifically, failure to fight off the Zika virus can cause more serious, long term problems. Researchers have recently been studying a link between untreated Zika virus victims developing a more serious syndrome called Guillain- Barre Syndrome, or GBS for short.
The CDC says GBS is a sickness of the nervous system, damaging nerve cells that can cause muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. While this syndrome is rare, it is becoming more popular in countries plagued with frequent Zika virus cases.
How to protect yourself from the Zika virus
So, in knowing this, what can elderly people do to prevent this possibility if you are traveling?
- Avoid mosquito bites at all cost- specifically in exotic countries
- Plan for travel in safe, “Zika Negative” countries by checking various recourses such as the CDC’s Zika Travel Information page on their website.
- Protect yourself and your sexual partner if either of you have traveled to an area with risk of Zika
We all want our retirement to be a relaxing, carefree time, not a time for worrying about current disease risks during travel. But we can’t be naïve. But we can stick closer to home where the threat is nothing like in other countries of the world.
Some love living in a retirement community like Westminster Village in West Lafayette, Indiana because there are always new adventures and activities around the corner, without ever having to leave. The Wellness Center, where so many arts and crafts like pottery and multi-media projects, and fitness options are offered is the place to find new interests and hobbies at Westminster Village. It’s a retirement lifestyle that is maintenance- and care free!
If you have any concerns or warning signs of Zika, see a physician immediately. Otherwise, go out there and enjoy the world around you. Just be smart and do it safely.
-Elaine of the Westminster Village Blog Team