There’s been a CDC issued public alert for travel to areas where Zika virus, a disease that’s spread through mosquito bites, is spreading. Extremely rare, with fewer than 1,000 U.S. cases per year, the symptoms range from fever to range to joint pain to red eyes. However, in recent times, the World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus as a global public health emergency with more and more cases popping up in America.
The most recent victim? Chrissy Rutherford. A New York-based, 30-year-old senior digital editor for Harper’s Bazaar didn’t think her trip to Kingston, Jamaica would leave her with weird muscle pain” in her legs or “a charley horse pain” in her left thigh. She didn’t immediately link the pain to Zika virus, but when a lump formed behind her ear and a rash broke out on her face, she knew something had gone array.
“[Zika] definitely had not crossed my mind until I started breaking out in a rash… That’s when I was like ‘Okay, there’s definitely something wrong with me,’ ” Rutherford told PEOPLE. “I was feeling really tired. I had plans to go out with a friend, but I had to cancel on her. I told her it’s hard to explain what’s going on with my body… I have no idea.”
Rutherford first came to the assumption that she might have Zika during a train ride to a wedding in Westchester, New York. She wrote an op-ed for Harper’s Bazaar, explaining that while taking a selfie she noticed her skin looked “unusually bumpy.” “I was like ‘Oh my God, there’s really something wrong with me,’ ” she says. “I don’t ever get rashes.” When she approached her friends about the idea, it was met with laughter from friends who told her “not to be ridiculous!”
After, Rutherford’s mother who is also a nurse, advised her to drink lots of water and get tested for Zika. “When I was [in Jamaica], I was like, ‘What are the chances I would actually get [Zika],’ ” she 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.”
She then immediate sought out medical attention, where they did a blood test and took samples of her urine. “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,” Rutherford recalls.
A week later, the doctors confirmed that she had tested positive for Zika. “In a way, I felt like, ‘Oh, okay, 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.”
Rutherford’s symptoms have since 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,” she says. “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,” she also explained. “There needs to be more education about what is going on.”
For those that are traveling out of the United States, Rutherford advises all to “read up” on the Zika virus.
“Everyone really needs to understand what [Zika] is,” said. “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.