Top tips to protect yourself from the Zika virus

Jun 20, 2017, 06:13 AM by Scott Weaver, PhD, director of the UTMB Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and scientific director of the Galveston National Laboratory; and Dr. George Saade, professor and division chief of Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine at UTMB

Mosquito As Texas weather heats up for the summer, mosquitoes that carry Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses become more active and abundant. While researchers are testing antiviral drugs and vaccines to combat Zika, nothing is currently available to treat infections. The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission. The following tips can help you protect yourself and others:

  • Use insect repellants. When used as directed, insect repellants are safe and effective for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women.
    • Repellants containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection. For a complete list of Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellants, visit www.epa.gov/insect-repellents.
    • Most repellants can be used on children in proper concentrations; however, do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus in children under 3-years-old or in pregnant women.
    • If you use both sunscreen and insect repellant, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
  • Cover yourself. When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-impregnated clothing.
  • Protect yourself during all times of the day. Keep in mind the type of mosquito that transmits Zika—the Aedes aegypti mosquito—bites during the daytime as well as the early morning and evening.
  • Talk to your doctor. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should talk to their obstetrician and become familiar with the latest guidance from the CDC. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects including microcephaly and other severe brain defects.
  • Empty any standing water. Help reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots, buckets and tires—even something as small as a bottle cap can be the perfect habitat for a mosquito before it bites.
  • Keep mosquitoes out. Use air conditioning when possible and install or repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Travel with caution. As the summer travel season begins, plan ahead. Find out if your vacation destination has active Zika transmission. If it does, and you or your partner are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, consider canceling or postponing your plans. Travelers returning to the U.S. from an area with risk of Zika should take extra steps to prevent mosquito bites for at least three weeks, even if they have no symptoms of infection. The CDC keeps up-to-date information on areas with Zika transmission at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.
  • Practice safe sex. Anyone concerned about getting or passing Zika through sex should consider taking precautions. Pregnant women and their partners who have traveled to or live in areas with Zika should use condoms from start to finish every time or not have sex for the entire pregnancy. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/sexual-transmission-prevention.html.