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What once started as a diseases that only occurred in Latin American and the Caribbean has begun to spread throughout the world. Fortunately, the immediate effects of Zika are almost always not life-threatening: rash, headache, and possible pink eye. In fact, many people who conduct Zika don’t even realize that they have.

As you may have heard by now the problem with Zika is in the long-term effects, particular for pregnant mothers. When someone conducts dengue or West Nile Virus, the virus may be passed by mosquitos, but not through amniotic fluid. What makes Zika such a challenging virus is that it can be passed from mother to child via amniotic fluid, which may affect a child’s development.

Zika infographic by the CDC

Making things more complicated is that there is currently not a vaccine for the virus. If someone gets the virus they have it until it is leaves the blood stream. Although some reports indicate that the virus stays in one’s system for a couple of weeks, other reports indicate that it still may remain inside the human body for up to six months.

So the question is, how can you prevent yourself from getting Zika?

For starters, don’t travel to infected areas.

If you do travel to Zika areas, make sure that you’re taking all of the necessary precautions that you can to limit the likelihood of a mosquito bite. This includes:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants wherever possible
  • Make sure that if your lodgings have screened-in-windows
  • Use an insecticide-treated mosquito net whenever possible
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing
  • Use CDC approved insect repellants containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535; although “natural” insect repellant may be more eco-friendly, they’re effectiveness is a lot more dubious
  • Keep on guard at all times – both indoors and out; Aedes Egyptus mosquitos(the primary carriers of the disease) often feed during the day

Also, limit the amount of mosquitos with the following steps

  • Get rid of any stagnant water in garbage cans, birdbaths or rain barrels
  • Change water in water vases every other day
  • Don’t buy a bug zapper or an ultrasound insect repellant device
  • Light citronella candles when outdoors; however, keep in mind that there range is limited, specifically when it is breezy

Make sure that you are practicing safe sex.

In the event that you or your sexual partner have recently traveled to a Zika infected area, it’s best to avoid unprotected sex for six months.

If your are pregnant or are considering getting pregnant, get tested to see if you’re Zika positive. 

If you think that you, your partner, or someone in your family may have conducted Zika let your primary care physician know.

If you have traveled to an Zika area while pregnant, have your new-born tested.

Don’t let Zika control your life. A much more tragic threat is being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Exercise the above tips and you will be doing all that you can to reduce your chances of catching it.

For more information check out the CDC website.

 

Dr. Peter McIlveen