At one time, few of us had ever heard of the Zika virus which primarily occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Now as it has steadily spread to other parts of the world and is becoming more of a health threat than ever, we all need to take heed and do what we can to prevent the spread of this dangerous virus.
Zika virus is mainly spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that bites mostly during the daytime. The same mosquitos that spread Zika may also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. Men who have been infected with Zika can spread the virus to his sex partners. At this time there are no vaccines to prevent the Zika virus disease.
With summer upon us and as people spend more time outdoors or traveling abroad where the Zika virus has been identified, there are steps we can do taking appropriate precautions when possible, to prevent the spread ofthe Zika virus and mosquito bites in general.
· Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.
· Dress children in clothing covering their arms and legs.
· Babies in strollers should be covered with mosquito netting.
· Keep windows and doors shut or if open, use screens on them to keep mosquitos outside.
· Mosquitos lay eggs near water. Empty all items around the outside of your house such as buckets, planters, flowerpot saucers, and anything else that can hold water.
· If sleeping outdoors or in a foreign country use a mosquito bed net to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
· Use insect repellents with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Reapply repellent as needed and always follow product label directions.
· Sunscreen and insect repellent can be used at the same time but apply sunscreen first.
· Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
· Avoid getting insect repellent into your child’s eyes, hands, mouth or cut/irritated skin.
· Spray insect repellent on your hands and then apply to your child’s face
· Clothing and outdoor gear can be treated with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
If you travel to an area where the Zika virus is present, even if you do not feel sick, take precautions to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks. This way if you are infected with the Zika virus, this can prevent you from passing Zika to mosquitos that could spread the virus to other people.
All of us can be at risk of being infected by the Zika virus but the biggest concern is for pregnant women as it can cause serious problems for the baby of microcephaly. For most people infected with Zika their symptoms are mild usually resolving on their own with several days to a week.
Symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain or headaches.
For more information on the Zika virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here.