Understanding the Zika Virus

This week, a baby girl with Zika-related microcephaly was born at a New Jersey hospital. She is the second baby in the United States to be born with birth defects related to the virus. The other baby was born earlier this year in Hawaii.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika is a virus that is transmitted by infected mosquitos and that can also be spread during sex with an infected person. Common symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes), although most people won’t have any symptoms. Zika infection during pregnancy is linked to microcephaly, which is a serious birth defect of the brain. This is why the CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid traveling to Zika-prone areas including the Caribbean, Central America, Pacific Islands and South America.

There have been no mosquito-borne Zika cases reported in the United States but there have been a number of cases related to travelers who are visiting or returning to the United States. The CDC says this could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the country.

This is what the CDC knows so far about the Zika virus:

• No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
• Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites. Do this by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; sleep under mosquito bed net if you are overseas, outside or not able to protect yourself from bites; and applying and reapplying insect repellent when you are outside. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before insect repellent.
• Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
• Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
• Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

With summertime and mosquito season just around the corner, it’s important to prevent mosquito bites and mosquito infestation near your home. Here are some tips from the CDC to control mosquitoes at home:

• Install or repair and use window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
• Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
• Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
• For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
• Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
• Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
• If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
• Keep windows and doors shut and use air conditioning when possible.


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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