Importance of testing and prevention in response to confirmed local transmission of Zika Virus

Florida health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed local transmission of the Zika virus in a specific area of Dade and Broward Counties in Florida, emphasizing the need for robust, ongoing Zika surveillance and response preparedness wherever Zika-transmitting mosquitos are found in the US. Infectious diseases physicians are urging the public to take measures to protect themselves from contracting the virus while also urging Congress to provide the funding necessary for an appropriate public health response.

Zika is most commonly spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, therefore, preventing mosquito bites in areas where Zika is present is essential, especially for pregnant women. The most effective way to prevent mosquito bites is by using an EPA-registered insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, removing standing water from around your home, and staying indoors. It is important to know that Zika can also be transmitted sexually by a man or a woman, so all who may have been exposed to Zika and are partners of a pregnant woman are urged to use a condom or abstain from sex for the duration of pregnancy to prevent the spread of the virus. Zika is known to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, and other problems in pregnancies and among foetuses and infants infected with the virus before birth. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system, is also very likely triggered by Zika in a small number of cases.

Most people infected with Zika will have mild or no symptoms at all. A blood or urine test can confirm whether a patient is infected, and patients are urged to consult their healthcare provider if they are concerned that they have been exposed to the virus.

Pregnant women should talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider if they or their sex partners recently travelled to an area with Zika, even if they don’t feel sick. Others who have travelled to areas with Zika should see their doctors if they experience any Zika symptoms, such as fever, joint pain, rash, red eyes, muscle pain or headache. Physicians may collect blood or urine samples for Zika virus testing.