Tips to Prevent Zika

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Summer is here, are you ready?

As Miami heads into the summer, rainy season and potentially another season of locally-transmitted cases of Zika, preventing mosquito bites and taking other precautions will significantly reduce infection.

You can prevent Zika transmission by following these few simple tips.

For adults:

  • Use an insect repellent that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (DEET 20%, Picardin, Oil of Eucalyptus, IR3535) on any exposed skin.
  • Wear fresh long sleeves and long pants.
  • Use condoms if you are:
    • a man who had Zika virus over the past six months or traveled to endemic areas.
    • a woman who had confirmed Zika over the past two months or traveled to an endemic area.

For children:

  • Do not use Insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Do not use eucalyptus oil on children younger than 3 years old.
  • Protect newborns and babies younger than two months with mosquito nets on the crib and strollers.
  • Dress small children with clothing that covers their arms and legs.

For Your Home:

  • Drain all standing water in your yard on a weekly basis, or add a larvacide if that’s not possible.
  • Control mosquitoes inside of your home by using screens on windows and doors, if your house does not have an air conditioning system.

“You don’t want mosquitoes to breed near your home,” says Dr. Paola Lichtenberger, director of Tropical Diseases at the University of Miami Health System. “And, because the Zika virus may also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, couples should have condoms on hand to make sure the virus is not passed to the pregnant partner.”

If infected by Zika during pregnancy, the virus could cause severe brain defects in the fetus/newborn including microcephaly and problems with vision and hearing. In adults, it can also cause Guillain-Barre — an uncommon syndrome involving temporary paralysis and inflammation of the brain.

Only 20 percent of people who have been infected will experience symptoms such as rash, fever, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain.

If someone suspects that they have contracted Zika, they should contact their primary care physician, the emergency room/urgent care center, or a tropical/travel medicine expert says Lichtenberger, who plays a vital role in diagnosing and treating patients with vector borne illness and other tropical diseases at the University of Miami Health System.

With her extensive knowledge of tropical medicine, Dr. Lichtenberger also educates the broader South Florida health community on emerging viruses. She provides trainings for area health workers in collaboration with governmental agencies, such as the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Most physicians who are trained in the United States don’t have a lot of experience in tropical diseases,” she says. “Zika is here to stay in South Florida’s subtropical climate and we want to make sure that local physicians are aware of these mosquito-borne threats and can contact our team if necessary.”

Lichtenberger and her team are watching closely for signs of other mosquito-borne tropical diseases, such as dengue, malaria, dengue, Chagas, chikungunya and yellow fever that could surface in South Florida, particularly Miami, if they are on the rise in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For more information on Zika including prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

(Facebook Live with Chicanol, Language: Bilingual)