Dr. Barbara Ihrke shares experience with Zika virus

(Originally posted on The Sojourn’s website on February 11, 2016)

An Indiana Wesleyan University administrator is diagnosed with the Zika virus, the first human case in Indiana.

Dr. Barbara Ihrke, vice president of academic affairs in the School of Nursing, traveled to La Gonave, an island off of the coast of Haiti, Jan. 16. She taught a transcultural nursing class at Wesleyan University of Haiti school of nursing and returned to Indiana Jan. 23.

Five days later, she developed symptoms of Zika.

Ihrke said she had a headache, which led to joint pain and a rash breaking out. On Jan. 29, she went to the IWU Health Center. Having observed the effects of Zika in Haiti, she suspected she had it. She received her official diagnosis Feb. 9 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Zika virus first broke out in 1947, in the Zika Forest in Uganda.  Ever since then, there have been multiple flare ups, including one on the French Polynesian Islands last year.  People diagnosed with Zika are rarely hospitalized, but now the virus is being connected to a larger problem.

“It’s a serious situation if you’re pregnant or of childbearing years,” Ihrke said. “If you get pregnant and get the mosquito bite, the potential is that the baby would be born with microcephaly, or a small head. So that has caused a lot of fear and panic … in the community as a whole.”

There is also concern for the Olympic Games this summer in Brazil because the country has had several cases of women with Zika bearing children with microcephaly.

After Ihrke was diagnosed, she rested and stayed hydrated. She said she is “now 100 percent.”

People with Zika are advised to take Benadryl and/or Tylenol to treat symptoms, since there are no medications to treat the actual virus itself. Ihrke only took Tylenol because she had severe joint pain.

Ihrke said while she would have “deep concern” for a woman who was pregnant or in childbearing years to contract the virus, but is not concerned for herself personally. She once had Malaria while living in Africa, and she said that was “a lot worse.”

She encourages people to go to the Indiana State Department of Health’s website and the CDC’swebsite if they are concerned about Zika or are planning on traveling outside of the United States soon. She said Zika is the top story on the two websites right now.

“I think stories like this, it’s bringing education,” Ihrke said.  “As people hear more about it then it’s like ‘Okay, I’m better educated, so I can make some better choices, better decisions, I can protect myself.’ So I think getting the information out is important.”




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