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Video Spotlight

CBS Sunday Morning News takes a look at the University of Oklahoma Anesthesia Department and their use of the OU College Of Medicine's Clinical Skills Education & Testing Center.
CBS Sunday Morning News

OU Medicine News

News Release

Date: Feb. 8, 2016
For more information, call:
Scott Coppenbarger
OU Medical Center/The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center
Office: (405) 271-7900 X4
Cell: (405) 593-5289 

Oklahoman Living in Haiti Doing Well After Contracting Zika

Infectious Disease Expert Explains the Mosquito-Transmitted Disease

Oklahoma City — While the threat of the Zika virus and worry of its spread are just now reaching the U.S., Oklahoma State University graduate Lauren Steverson is one of nearly four million whom the World Health Organization estimates will contract the mosquito-borne virus this year.

Steverson, 23, of Tuttle, is a missionary currently living in Cabaret, Haiti, located in the southwest part of the country just north of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Steverson was infected by a mosquito carrying the virus there a little more than two weeks ago.

 “I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever,” Steverson said. “I had a headache and back pain…and the rash, for me, wasn’t that bad.” By the end of her short illness, the itchy rash had spread to her chest, face, arms and legs.

Transmitted by the Aedes mosquito

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted disease discovered in Uganda in 1947. It’s related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus, and spread primarily through the Aedes mosquito, according to the CDC.

Haiti is one of more than two dozen countries in the Caribbean, South and Central America, Mexico and the Pacific Islands where the mosquito-borne virus is spreading.

While there have been no local transmissions of the virus in the U.S., the CDC has told pregnant women to consider postponing travel to many parts of  Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands where Zika is spreading. The CDC also recently opened an emergency operations center staffed around the clock to address Zika. 

By the time she got sick, Steverson was prepared. Other people in Cabaret had contracted the virus shortly before she did. Since she’s not pregnant, Steverson took a pain reliever and let the disease run its course.

“Most people don’t know about it until it happens to them,” she said. “There’s some fear of the unknown, but it’s not nearly as bad as some are making it sound.”

Disease spreading

Prior to 2015, Zika outbreaks had occurred in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

“Zika virus has spread dramatically in the last couple of months,” said OU Children’s Physicians infectious disease specialist Dr. Robert Welliver. “While this is an issue in South and Central America and the number of countries involved seems to be expanding minute by minute, it’s not a problem in Oklahoma.”

Welliver said unless someone has traveled to affected countries, they likely will not be exposed to Zika. However, some international health organizations have predicted the mosquitoes carrying the virus could make it to parts of the U.S.

While experts believe the majority of Zika infections come from mosquitoes, there have been reports of sexual transmission, most recently in Dallas County, Texas, where a man who returned to the U.S. from Venezuela infected a sexual partner. 

Based on these reports, the CDC issued tentative new guidelines that pregnant women with sexual partners who’ve traveled to affected areas refrain from sex or use condoms during pregnancy.

Why the worry about pregnant women?

Health experts are currently investigating whether there is a link between Zika and microcephaly— a condition characterized by unusually small heads and damaged brains in newborns. 

Additionally, The CDC is working with Brazilian health officials to investigate a possible link to a growing number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disease that occurs when the immune system damages nerve cells. Most people recover fully from it, but others experience long-term nerve damage or paralysis. In rare cases, people have died.

For most, the Zika virus causes no symptoms or lasting harm. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Symptoms include a mild fever, skin rash and red eyes, much like Steverson’s experience.

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OU Medicine is the collective brand for OU Medical Center, OU Physicians and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Headquartered at the Oklahoma Health Center campus near downtown Oklahoma City, OU Medicine is the state’s largest academic medical complex. Among other things, it provides health care, conducts medical research and educates the physicians of tomorrow. 

OU Medical Center is home to the state’s only level one trauma center and The Children’s Hospital, Oklahoma’s most comprehensive pediatric facility. Members of OU Physicians, the state’s largest physicians group, provide care at the hospital facilities and at OU Physicians clinics in Oklahoma City and across the state. The practice includes almost every adult and child specialty, and some of its physicians have pioneered treatments or procedures that are world-firsts. Find us online and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube as OU Medicine.