According to the Centers for Disease Control, from January 2015 to September 7, 2016, the number of cases of the Zika virus in the United States reached 2,964. In Florida alone there were 614 cases during that time period. As the numbers of people infected with the Zika virus grows, questions arise about the disease and how to prevent it.
How Zika Spreads
There is no risk of catching Zika from social contact, including touching, sneezing or coughing.
Zika can be transmitted through:
• Mosquito bites
• From a pregnant woman to her fetus
• Blood transfusion (unconfirmed but likely)
Often people who are infected with the Zika virus do not have any symptoms at all. Those that do have symptoms usually have mild ones. The most common symptoms of Zika are:
• Joint pain
Other symptoms include:
• Muscle pain
Typically the symptoms of Zika will last for several days, up to a week. Usually those who are infected will not get sick enough to warrant a hospital visit. It is very rare to have a death from Zika.
Zika and Pregnancy
The Zika infection during a pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a birth defect of the brain, and other serious brain defects. Other problems reported include defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth.
How to Prevent Zika
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Here’s how:
Clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and treat your clothing and gear with permethrin, or buy pre-treated items.
Insect repellent: Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. Only use insect repellents as directed, and do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
At Home: Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Take steps to control mosquitoes, for example, by removing standing water outside your home. If air conditioned/screened rooms are not available, or if you are sleeping outside, sleep under a mosquito net.
Sexual Transmission: Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.
How Zika is Diagnosed
Diagnosis of Zika is based on recent travel history, symptoms, and test results. A blood or urine test can confirm a Zika infection. Symptoms of Zika are similar to other illnesses spread through mosquito bites, like dengue and chikungunya. Your doctor may order tests for several types of infections in order to make a correct diagnosis.
There is no specific medication, and there is no preventative vaccine for the Zika virus.
To treat the symptoms:
• Get plenty of rest.
• Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
• Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
For more information:
Centers For Disease Control
Collier Mosquito Control District
Florida Department of Health
Zika Hotline – 855-622-6735