How to Protect Yourself from the Zika Virus

Pregnant woman using bug spray to repel mosquitos and prevent Zika infectionBy Fran Ludwig MS, RN

As I drove to the mall the other day, a commuter bus passed me. A new advertisement on the side of the bus featured the headline “Stay a Step Ahead of Zika.” This public education campaign, recently launched in New York State, is part of the Governor’s comprehensive six-step action plan to combat the potential transmission of the Zika virus.

Now found in 39 continental U.S. states, the Zika virus has become a major public health concern. As concern about this virus grows, state health departments are developing massive public education campaigns to educate the general public about the risks associated with this virus, as well as how to combat the mosquito that carries this virus.

The Zika virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Pregnant women are at the top of the list of people at risk. Because the Zika virus can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that men and women should think about delaying pregnancy if they have had symptoms of the virus or have traveled to areas infected by the Zika virus. The Zika virus can be passed from a infected male to his partner (male or female).

Most individuals infected with the Zika virus do not experience symptoms. When symptoms do appear they tend to be mild, and include fever, rash, muscle and joint aches, and headache that can last up to a week. Individuals who experience symptoms are encouraged to see their health care provider, especially women who are pregnant and have traveled to Zika-infected areas.

Tips for protecting yourself from Zika:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellant when outside.
  • Apply bug spray after sunscreen and apply it to your clothes.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Discard any standing water found near or in your home.
  • Exercise indoors. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and heat. When you exercise outside, your breath and body heat will attract mosquitoes.
  • Travel smart by checking the CDC website for current advisories. If you must travel to affected areas, be vigilant about protecting yourself from mosquito bites.