Medical supplies online against Zika (aka public enemy #1)

As the summer Olympics are around the corner in Brazil, there are growing concerns that the Zika threat will be aggravated and blown out of proportion. In the latest Vital Signs report, the CDC recommends using medical supplies online such as insect repellent and condoms in order to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus in Brazil, the United States or anywhere in the world. Only Aedes aegypti and another species of mosquito transmit Zika out of 176 species identified in the U.S.  – but then mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world because of the diseases they spread, so even just two are two too many. Especially when an infected female can keep on biting people for the rest of its 30-day life.

To paraphrase Dan Quayle, there are known knowns and unknown unknowns when it comes to Zika. For example, we know that the medical supplies online mentioned above can help reduce the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. Other things we do know include the following:

·         There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

·         The virus may spread through mosquito bites in some states later this spring and summer. Based on previous experiences with dengue and chikungunya, we know that  states, like Florida, Hawaii, and Texas, may well have cases or small clusters of diseases that are spread by infected mosquitoes.  Other states may also be at risk.

·         Some infected people will develop mild symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes) for up to a week but most people won’t even realize they are infected.

·         Zika has been associated with microcephaly, a serious birth defect, and is a sign that the baby is born with a smaller brain, which can result in medical problems and impaired development.

·         Zika can be passed from an infected man during sexual relations. To date, transmission from a woman during sex has not been observed. The man becomes infected by mosquito bite and spreads it to his partner through unprotected intercourse.

And what we don’t know yet:

  • How likely is it that a fetus will have birth defects if infected?
  • When during a woman’s pregnancy is the fetus most vulnerable and when can the virus be detected?
  • How likely is a pregnant woman to get infected with Zika and pass it on?
  • How often does a man spread Zika through sex and how long does the virus stay in semen?
  • Which states, with certainty, may be affected by Zika? 

What can be and is being done

The federal government

·         Works with states and international partners to:

-        Research mosquitoes and the relationship between Zika, microcephaly, and other adverse health outcomes.

-        Monitor Zika infections in mosquitoes and people to strengthen response.

-        Improve lab testing for Zika.

-        Post travel notices and advise people going to or returning from areas with Zika.

-        Provide up-to-date information on Zika as it is known.

-        Fast-track the development of a vaccine, and improve diagnostic tests and mosquito control tools.

·         Works with Congress to secure support for domestic and international Zika preparedness and response efforts.

Pregnant women

  • Avoid travel to any area with Zika
  • Talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider before traveling to an area with Zika.
  • Prevent mosquito bites.
  • Use latex condoms correctly every time or choose not to have any type of sex if the male partner has been in an area with Zika during the pregnancy.

State and local public health agencies

  • Develop, refine, and implement preparedness and response plans tailored to the jurisdiction’s risk for Zika.
  • Develop capacity to test for Zika or send samples to CDC for testing.
  • Report laboratory-confirmed cases to CDC through ArboNET.
  • Start or increase mosquito surveillance, testing, and control activities.
  • Provide healthcare providers with timely information about Zika and cases in the state.
  • Educate communities about Zika virus and how to prevent mosquito bites.

Healthcare providers

  • Know the symptoms of Zika and ask patients about their travel history.
  • Participate in the US Zika Pregnancy registry or, if in Puerto Rico, the Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System (ZAPSS).
  • Contact their state and local health departments for laboratory testing.
  • Offer testing to pregnant women and others with symptoms of Zika who have traveled to areas with Zika.
  • Educate a pregnant woman and her partner on how to prevent Zika.
  • Call CDC and the state or local health department for clinical consultation. Notify state and local health departments when they have cases of Zika.

General public

·         Eliminate standing water inside/outside homes.

·         Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

·         Treat clothing with permethrin.

·         Use screens on the exterior of homes to keep mosquitoes out.

·         Repair and seal septic systems.


Related: Does Zika virus infection cause Guillain-Barré syndrome?