Here's What You Need To Know About The Zika Virus
As of early April, there were 84 cases of Zika virus reported in Florida, all travel-related. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teamed up with the Florida Department of Health to answer questions about Zika virus to keep Florida residents safe.
What is the status of Zika virus in Florida?
Currently, there are no locally acquired cases of Zika virus in Florida. All of the cases are travel-associated. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the type of mosquito that spreads the Zika virus, is present in Florida and throughout the southern U.S.
Is it likely the Zika virus will spread in Florida?
From learned experience with dengue virus and chikungunya virus in Florida, which are spread by the same mosquito, travelers who come back infected can infect local mosquito populations. With what we know from dengue and chikungunya, it is very unlikely we will have large outbreaks of Zika virus in the U.S. One major reason for this is we have better constructed housing with air conditioning and intact screens that protect us from being bitten by mosquitoes in our homes. When locally acquired mosquito-borne illness is present, the department works closely with mosquito control to stop further transmission of the virus of concern. Mosquito control and the health department jointly provide public education whenever possible as well since it is very important all residents cooperate and drain containers on their property at least weekly to help successfully control this mosquito.
Why do people say that pregnant mothers should be aware of this virus?
The Ministry of Health of Brazil has reported an increase in the numbers of newborns with microcephaly as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes in areas experiencing Zika virus outbreaks. The CDC is conducting research to further characterize the relationship between Zika virus and poor pregnancy outcomes. Additional studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. There are many causes of microcephaly in babies, including genetic abnormalities.
How can I protect myself and my family?
The Florida Department of Health urges Florida residents and visitors to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne illnesses by draining standing water; covering their skin with repellent and clothing; covering windows with screens; and other basic drain and cover precautions.
What is being done to prevent transmission of Zika virus in Florida?
State and local health departments are working closely with other partners to make sure people at risk for Zika virus infections as well as health care providers stay informed with the most current science and public information about the Zika virus. We also provide education about effective repellents and insecticides. These include products with DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-methane-diol products. County health department staff also report suspect Zika fever cases to local mosquito control staff to make sure mosquito control activities are put in place.
I heard that you can contract Zika virus by sexual contact. Is it true?
There have been two cases where a female has developed Zika virus infection after sexual contact with a male infected with the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, if a male partner of a pregnant woman lives in or travels to an area with active Zika virus transmission, the couple should abstain from sex or use condoms every time they have sexual contact for the duration of the pregnancy.
Who can I call to have the area around my home sprayed for mosquitoes?
Many counties and cities have mosquito control services. Contact your county or city offices to find out if these services are available in your area. The mosquitoes that spread Zika breed in small containers, so you can also limit your risk by making sure to regularly dump all sources of standing water in bird baths, flower pots, etc., on your property at least weekly.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Muhammad Mahdi Karim)