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Protect Yourself from the Zika Virus, Even During Winter Months

December 15, 2016

Now that it’s cold out, the thought of mosquito and mosquito repellent is lost back in the heat of the summer. However, diseases like the Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, reap consequences long after the summer months.

The Zika virus grew in popularity in May of 2015, when it was discovered in Brazil. The virus is now affecting people all over the world, even some here in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report there are 4,575 cases of Zika in United States, as of Dec. 7, 2016. While 4,389 of these cases are travel-associated, there are 185 cases of Zika that have been locally-acquired by mosquitoes here in the U.S.

Georgia has had 104 reported cases of Zika and all of them have been linked to travel.

Because nearly 80% of people infected with Zika will not experience symptoms, it is important to take every precaution to protect yourself when traveling to a country where Zika has been found. The most common symptoms consist of fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, and usually begin within 12 days after being infected. The CDC has also associated Zika with a rare birth defect called microcephaly, which causes a baby’s head to be significantly smaller than expected. This makes it especially important for pregnant women to protect themselves against the virus.

Zika Transmission

Zika is most commonly spread through mosquitoes, specifically, the yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected with the Zika virus when it bites a person who is already carrying the virus and then transmits the virus when it bites another person. Mosquitoes that carry the virus are known to bite more frequently during the day than at night, so it's important to reapply mosquito repellent frequently.

Pregnant women should be on high alert as the virus can be passed on to her unborn child. Additionally, the virus can be transmitted sexually between both men and women.

There is no cure or vaccine for Zika, so being informed and protecting yourself is imperative in stopping transmission of the virus. The CDC maintains a page on their website dedicated to Zika Travel Information that provides timely and relative information on the Zika virus in different countries around the world.

Traveling to Areas with Zika

Although the Zika virus has been found in a small number of people here in Georgia, it is important to take extra precautions if you plan to travel out of the country. You can follow these steps to protect yourself against mosquito bites:

  • Wear light-weight, long-sleeve shirts and pants
  • Stay in places with air conditioning
  • Use mosquito repellent containing 20% to 30% DEET
  • Sleep with a mosquito net
  • Remove standing water from things like birdbaths, outdoor toys, pool covers and clogged rain gutters

If your travel plans are coming up, you can get Zika information on-the-go. The CDC has a text messaging service that will send you automatic updates whenever they occur. Just text PLAN to 855-255-5606 to subscribe.

Pregnant and Traveling

If you are pregnant and planning to travel to an area where Zika has been reported, it is recommended you postpone your travel plans. If you are pregnant and already travelled to a country where Zika has been found, you should schedule a follow-up with your physician even if you're not feeling sick.

Additionally, if your spouse has recently travelled to an area with Zika, it's recommended that you don't have sexual intercourse with them, or you take every precaution when doing so, until the child is born. Zika transmission has been linked to sexual activity and can put your unborn child in severe danger.

Even though all Zika cases in Georgia have been travel-associated, you should not dismiss the risk of contracting it locally. As of Dec. 7, 2016, there were 184 locally transmitted cases, all found in South Florida.

Always assume it could happen to you. Protect your home and protect your family when you travel.

About the Author

Chelsea Stephens is a Content Specialist for Georgia.gov. A Georgia native herself, Chelsea ensures the content on Georgia.gov provides accurate information to all constituents of Georgia. She graduated with a degree in Marketing and has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

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