Summer break means many families will be spending more time outdoors, but the recent rainy spring means there are more mosquitoes and an increased risk of contracting the Zika virus.
While anyone can contract Zika, it is especially dangerous for pregnant women because the virus can be passed from a pregnant mother to her developing baby, resulting in a birth defect called microcephaly, and other severe fetal brain defects.1 Women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant should be especially careful.
Take the following precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones against Zika:
- Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to cover your skin when you’re outdoors during the day and in the evening.
- Spray insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone on clothing and exposed skin. Insect repellent is safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Remove any standing water where mosquitoes breed: Outdoor toys, bird baths, or anywhere that may collect rain.
- Make sure doors and windows have working screens or keep unscreened windows closed and run the air conditioning.
- Use mosquito netting to protect babies under two months old while in strollers, cribs and carriers. Never leave a child unattended while using netting.
Spotting symptoms of the Zika virus early on is important to recovery. Symptoms of the Zika virus can vary from person to person, and can be mild or severe and include fever, joint pain, rash, red eyes, headache and muscle pain.2 Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent Zika and there are no medicines available to treat the virus. 3
If you suspect you have the Zika virus, contact your health professional immediately. They will want to know about your symptoms and recent travel. Your healthcare professional may order a blood or urine test to help determine if you have been infected. You can manage your symptoms with rest, fluids and over the counter medications for fever and pain.
If you are caring for someone with the Zika virus, avoid exposure to that person’s blood or other body fluids and wash your hands before and after touching the person.
With attention, care and proactive steps, you and your family can avoid the Zika virus and enjoy a safe and happy summer.
Dr. Nancy Yuill is a nurse and the president of Chamberlain University’s Pearland, TX campus, with more than 40 years of experience in nursing practice, quality improvement and higher education.