A New York woman, Chrissy Rutherford, details having “weird muscle pain” in her legs after a trip to Kingston, Jamaica. Although she didn’t immediately suspect that she had contracted the Zika virus upon returning to the Big Apple, a lump had formed behind her ear and a rash broke out on her face — all symptoms of the mosquito-borne virus.
“[Zika] definitely had not crossed my mind until I started breaking out in a rash, that’s when I was like ‘OK, there’s definitely something wrong with me,’ ” Rutherford, a 30-year-old senior digital editor for Harper’s Bazaar told People. “I was feeling really tired. I had plans to go out with a friend, but I had to cancel on her.”
In an op-ed penned for Harper’s Bazaar, Rutherford revealed that it was during a train ride to a wedding in Westchester, New York, that it had dawned on her — she may have contracted Zika.
While in most cases, there are no symptoms associated with the Zika virus, the CDC reports that in a few cases, the virus can trigger paralysis, birth defects in pregnant women, fever, joint pain, red eyes, and a rash — much like the above snap that highlights Rutherford’s bumpy complexion. “I was like ‘Oh my God, there’s really something wrong with me,’ ” she said. “I don’t ever get rashes.”
Meanwhile, Rutherford was met with laughter from friends she confided in, telling her “not to be ridiculous!” So, she called her mother and a nurse who advised her to get tested. “When I was [in Jamaica], I was like, ‘What are the chances I would actually get [Zika],’ ” Rutherford said. “I had put bug spray on once or twice, but I wasn’t super vigilant about it, and I didn’t put any on during the daytime.”
It was advice she immediately heeded. “They took a urine sample and two vials of blood to be tested,” she explains. “I spent a lot of that time reading information on the internet. I was home and in bed for days. I was pretty certain that [Zika] was what I had. I looked up the symptoms for other mosquito viruses that I could have. I knew that none of them were fatal and that there wasn’t even anything that I could take, so I just gave into the fact that I was going to be sick for a while.”
A week later, Rutherford received her test results, which came back positive for Zika. “In a way, I felt like, ‘Oh, OK, I wasn’t crazy!’ I did have this even though some of my friends thought it was something else,” she said. “I wasn’t too worried, because I’m not planning on having a baby anytime soon, so I know that the effects are a lot less scary for me.”
Meanwhile, Rutherford’s symptoms have receded and she has returned to work. “They say it only stays in your system for up to a week, so I technically don’t have it anymore,” said Rutherford. “It does suck and you feel terrible for a couple of days, but I think you just have to ride it out. It’s very frightening for those who are trying to get pregnant. There needs to be more education about what is going on.”
In conclusion Rutherford advises anyone traveling outside of the United States to educate themselves on the Zika virus. “Everyone really needs to understand what [Zika] is,” she says. “That’s all you can do is really wear bug spray and make sure you are wearing the right one that can protect you from the mosquitoes that spread the virus. I think it’s important to be informed.”