With all of the concern about the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida (21 cases so far as of this writing) It may be time to look at some of the facts on transmission of the virus and the preventative measures you can take.
- Zika is mainly transmitted by a mosquito called Aedes aegypti. It has been transmitted through bites in nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere over the past year.
- There have been a handful of cases that have been acquired from local mosquitoes in Florida and Texas, and a single infection in Utah. The CDC believes that these are likely the first Zika infections originating from mosquitoes in the US.
- There have already been about 1,400 travel-related Zika cases involving US citizens (about 3,800 in US territories mostly in Puerto Rico).
- CDC Officials expect that Zika will likely follow the same pattern in the US as dengue fever and will most likely create small outbreaks in the Southeast US.
- 80 percent of people won’t even experience any symptoms with Zika infections.
- 20 percent will have minor symptoms like a low-grade fever, body ache and headache, as well as red eyes and a body rash. Rarely it can include abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. The symptoms appear 2 to 12 days after a bite and go away within a week. It is treated the same way as the flu with bed rest and fluids.
- In rare occasions, Zika, like other viral diseases can cause serious health complications like Guillain-Barré, a sometimes deadly neurological condition. Another main concern is with pregnant woman. It can cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by a shrunken head and incomplete brain development. Only one percent of pregnant women who get Zika will have birth complications (Only one in 100 women with Zika will go on to develop microcephaly or other abnormalities and is most likely if a woman is infected in the first trimester of her pregnancy).
- Zika can also be passed from mother to child and can be spread through sex. There have been about 20 cases of Zika sexual transmission in 10 countries.
- Zika can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
- There is no current vaccine against the Zika virus.
If you are concerned about Zika, the most important things you can do are clean your house, change your air conditioning filters and remove small bodies of water around your home, as this is where mosquitos flourish. Make sure you have screens on windows and doors that aren’t punctured. Wear protective clothing, use insect repellents, and keep your house cool with air conditioning.
With the use of repellant, there are things you should know to make an informed decision. DEET is considered to be the best protection, but Picaridin, (Repel and Cutter), IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus can be effective and are a DEET alternative. Vitamin B1 and essential oils are less effective.