What can we do about the Zika virus in the United States?



Since Florida has seen several new cases of local mosquito-borne infection, controlling and preventing Zika infection has great urgency. Zika virus involves an arthropod-borne infection transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Other modes of transmission include the maternal-fetal route, any sexual contact, blood transfusions, organ or tissue transplantation, and laboratory exposure.1

The first case of Zika infection in the United States and its territories occurred through international travel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of October 12, 2016, there were 3807 travel-associated cases of Zika infection in the United States and 84 instances in its territories.2 As for local transmission, there were 128 people evidencing a Zika infection in the United States and 25,871 in US territories.2 Regions between Texas and Florida are at high risk because Aedes mosquitoes primarily inhabit the gulf coast.3 Many cases have occurred despite repellent use and eradication efforts, possibly due to resistance acquired by these mosquitoes.1

Control measures include using insect repellents, aerial spraying of insecticides, eliminating mosquito breeding sites, covering water tanks, and using mosquito nets or door and window screens. Infection during pregnancy is the greatest concern because of congenital anomalies (including microcephaly) that negatively affect brain development.4

Before a possible conception or any sexual contact, women exposed to Zika—with or without symptoms—must wait at least 8 weeks; men with or without symptoms should abstain for 6 months.4 Individuals should avoid traveling to areas with Zika infestation, wear long-sleeved clothing treated with permethrin, and minimize outside exposure, especially in evening hours.4

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