Zika in Pinellas County
You may have heard the recent news that the first case of locally transmitted Zika in Pinellas County has been confirmed. So what does that mean? And what should you be doing to avoid being infected with this virus?
Zika is a virus which has recently spread into Florida and is transmitted by mosquitos. It can also be transmitted sexually. Local transmission simply means that the case in Pinellas County is not related to travel outside of the state or country. At the time of writing, it has not been confirmed that there is active transmission by mosquitoes in the county.
Only 1 in 5 people who contract Zika will develop symptoms. These symptoms may include headaches, skin rash, fever, pink eye, general malaise, and muscle/joint pain. At this time, the major group of concern include pregnant individuals and their unborn children. The virus can be passed to babies before they are born and has been linked to birth defects including microcephaly – a condition where the baby’s head is abnormally small, often resulting in a smaller, improperly developed brain.
Keeping yourself safe from Zika is similar to protecting yourself against other mosquito-borne diseases. Avoid mosquito bites using the following tips1:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Used as directed, these products are safe and effective – even if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The effectiveness of other repellants – including natural ones – is unknown.
- Choose the right repellant [hyperlink to https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you]
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carriages with mosquito netting.
- Use screens on doors and windows to your home. Keep them closed and repair any damage that could allow mosquitos to get inside.
- Use air conditioning.
- Frequently (at least once a week) empty standing water from items such as tires, planters, toys, birdbaths, and anything else you may find to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
In addition, couples may want to take precautions against sexual transmission of the virus by using barrier methods or choosing to abstain if they suspect one partner may have been exposed to the virus.