Be Spring and Summer Ready: What You Need to Know About Zika Virus

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. In Florida that means one thing: mosquitos! Just when we couldn’t possibly hate those pesky insects any more, we now have to be concerned about getting bit by a Zika-virus-carrying mosquito. Or do we? Here’s what you need to know to arm yourself for spring and summer in the Sunshine State.

What You Need to Know

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. If you’ve been watching the news you’ll know that the largest outbreak is happening in Central and South America. In spring of 2016 the first cases of Zika were reported in Brazil. Since then up to 1.5 million people may have been infected in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. Persons infected in the U.S. have mostly been those who have traveled to affected areas.1

 Zika is spread from person to person by mosquitos carrying the virus, but it may also be sexually transmitted. More information is still needed on this. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have released interim guidelines regarding sexual transmission of Zika virus. There is no vaccine or treatment currently available for Zika virus.1

The good news, if there is any, about Zika virus is that 75-80% of infections are asymptomatic (i.e., producing or showing no symptoms), and normal symptoms of the disease are generally mild. Common symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, and joint pain.1 Symptoms tend to appear 3-12 days after exposure and usually go away in about 5-7 days.1

 Zika Virus in Florida

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) wants to make sure Floridians have the most up-to-date information about what is happening with Zika virus in Florida. To that end, the DOH is releasing a Zika virus update every week day at 2pm; updates  include an accurate Zika virus case count by county confirmed by the CDC. You can find the list of updates here. As of April 27, 2016, there were 94 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida, 5 of them in Orange County.

Who (Really) Needs to Worry About Zika?

The biggest concern, and one of the reasons Zika virus has been getting so much attention in the media, is that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a severe brain defect. The virus can also cause other serious defects in fetuses prior to birth, including impaired growth.3 Because Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, pregnant women are being strongly cautioned to avoid traveling to Zika virus affected areas, and to use protection if having sex with a partner who has returned from an affected area.

Preventing Zika Virus Infections

The best way to prevent getting infected with Zika virus is to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito, and the best way to avoid any type of mosquito bite is to:

  • Avoid areas where there is standing water – these areas are often breeding grounds for mosquitos
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, in particular those made out of thicker fabric so mosquitos have a harder time biting through
  • Wear clothing treated with permethrin
  • Use insect repellent (if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, look for an EPA-registered insect repellent)
  • Don’t sleep outdoors! Stay inside at night, or sleep in a screened-in room; or use mosquito bed netting if you are overseas
  • If you are pregnant, avoid traveling to areas where there have been Zika virus outbreaks

 More Resources

There are some excellent resources available online for more information on Zika virus. If you are interested, please check out the following resources.

American Academy of Pediatrics
Zika Virus: What Parents Need to Know
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/Pages/Zika-Virus.aspx

American Medical Association
Zika Virus Resource Center
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/public-health/zika-resource-center.page

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Mosquito Bite Prevention for Travelers
http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_travelers.pdf

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Zika Travel Information
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Zika Virus
http://www.cdc.gov/zika/

Florida Department of Health
Zika Virus
http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/zika-virus/

MedlinePlus
Zika Virus
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/zikavirus.html

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
Zika Virus Resource
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/viruses/variation/Zika/

Pan American Health Organization
Zika Communication Materials (materials available in several languages)
http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11554&Itemid=41673&lang=en

World Health Organization
Zika Virus Fact Sheet
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/

 

References

1. DynaMed Plus [Internet]. Ipswich (MA): EBSCO Information Services. 1995 – . Record No. 909469, Zika virus infection; [updated 2016 Apr 25, cited April 27 2016]; [about 18 screens]. Available from http://www.dynamed.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=DynaMed&id=909469. Registration and login required.

2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Zika Virus: What Parents Need to Know. Updated April 14 2016, Cited April 27 2016. Available at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/Pages/Zika-Virus.aspx.

3. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Zika Virus: For Pregnant Women. Updated April 19 2016. Cited April 27 2016. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/index.html.

4. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Zika Virus: Prevention. Updated April 14 2016. Cited April 27 2016. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/.

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