Fighting the bite: Protection against the Zika virus

Although it may seem like the risk has passed, women who are pregnant or hope to become pregnant and their partners should be wary about the Zika virus and the serious birth defects it can cause. While the risk of defects from Zika is relatively small according to a new report, it is still important for women and their partners to protect themselves from the virus.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, could be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and lead to birth defects like microcephaly and other complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, there were 51 babies born with Zika-related birth defects in the United States. Nearly 1,300 pregnant women, in 44 states, had laboratory evidence of a Zika virus infection in 2016. Around 970 of those women have completed their pregnancies. Overall, the risk of severe birth defects was about five percent among women who were infected with Zika during pregnancy and rose to 15 percent of those who were infected during their first trimester, according to the new article. While there has been no confirmed local transmission of Zika in Northeast Florida, protective actions against mosquito bites can prevent Zika.

There are local efforts in place to address Zika in Northeast Florida. The Florida Department of Health Duval (FDOH Duval) has launched a Zika task force to make sure that the proper safety measures are being taken to protect the community against the harms Zika can cause. Partners of the task force includes the CDC, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the local county mosquito control office. FDOH Duval, as well as the surrounding counties, has also put together a prevention package which includes three insect-repellent towelettes, a male contraceptive and literature on Zika and protective measures. The Coalition will also be distributing Zika prevention packages through its MomCare, Azalea, Healthy Start and Healthy Families Jacksonville programs and at community events.

As there is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus, the CDC strongly recommends taking the following protective actions to prevent the transmission.

 Clothing:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

Insect repellent: 

  • Repellents that contain Deet are the most effective during pregnancy
  • Picaridin is an alternative repellent that is safe to use during pregnancy
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than three-years-old.
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two-months old.

Sexual transmission 

  • Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

Many people affected with Zika will have mild symptoms or none at all. Symptoms could include a fever, rash, joint pain, headache or conjunctivitis (red eyes). If you have experienced any of the symptoms and have been to a region where the Zika virus is present, it is recommended that you visit a physician or healthcare provider and request testing.

To get more information about the Zika virus and possible ways of prevention, visit:

CDC

Florida Department of Health

March of Dimes