Zika Virus: Are You at Risk This Summer? - PIH Health

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Published on July 25, 2016

Zika Virus: Are You at Risk This Summer?

man spraying mosquito repellent

Warmer temps mean more mosquitoes. Find out if you’re at risk of getting Zika and how you can protect yourself.

man spraying mosquito repellentReports about Zika fill the news, but many Americans aren’t sure if they should be concerned about this virus. So far, the few hundred Americans with Zika have been infected when traveling out of the country.

Although not a major health risk in the U.S. yet, 40 million Americans travel to Zika-affected countries each year. Public officials emphasize that it’s important to take steps now to prevent the spread of Zika here because it’s only a matter of time before the virus is transmitted locally.

Warmer summer temperatures raise concern over Zika because the virus is spread by mosquitoes and these insects thrive in warm, moist conditions. The good news is that the type of mosquito that carries Zika (A. aegypti) is not commonly found in many areas across the country. But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk at all. Southern states, like Florida and Texas, as well as Hawaii, are most likely to be affected.

What happens if I get Zika?

The Zika virus is usually mild and most people won’t even know they’ve been infected. But if you’re pregnant, there’s definitely reason to be concerned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that Zika is definitively linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Pregnant women who contract the virus may give birth to babies with unusually small heads, as well as serious brain damage and neurological abnormalities.

There’s also a very small risk of people developing brain and autoimmune problems after being infected by Zika, and a lot is still unknown about long-term effects in those who contract the virus.

Who is most at risk of getting Zika?

  • The greatest threat is to people travelling to Zika-infested regions in Central and South America.
  • Puerto Rico has also seen a lot of cases of Zika so far.
  • People living in Florida, Texas and Hawaii are most at risk within the U.S.
  • Pregnant women should be most concerned, due to the known connection between Zika and birth defects. ​The estimated risk of babies developing microcephaly if women are infected with Zika during the first trimester of pregnancy is 1% to 13%, according to CDC researchers. ​However, a negligible link between Zika and microcephaly in women infected during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy in Bahia, Brazil during 2015 - 2016 has been reported​ in the New England Journal of Medicine.

 How can you protect yourself from Zika?

Mosquito control programs are operated locally throughout the United States. Protection from Zika will vary based on where you live, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and prevent spread of the virus. This includes:

  • Get rid of containers in your yard that collect standing water. Even a capful of water can be a breeding ground for hundreds of mosquito eggs.
  • Make sure all open windows have screens.
  • Run the air conditioner when temps are hot. Mosquitoes hate the cold.
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants if you’re in an area where mosquitoes are common to avoid being bitten.
  • Use insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, oil-of-lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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