Zika is an infectious disease primarily spread by the bite of a mosquito and is currently circulating in many warm-weather areas outside of the continental United States. Anyone planning to travel during the spring break season, or during the warm summer months, is encouraged to learn more about the virus, where it is spreading and ways to avoid mosquito bites. The Department for Public Health has reported cases of the Zika virus in Kentuckians who have traveled to areas of the world where the virus is currently spreading and cautions travelers when making spring break and summer vacation plans. More information can be obtained from the DPH Health Alerts website.
Zika virus is considered by the World Health Organization to be a serious international public health threat. Although many people who contract Zika virus infection have mild or no symptoms, increasing evidence suggests that pregnant women who are infected with Zika virus are at higher risk for giving birth to babies who have defects of brain formation.
“This is the time of year that universities, school districts and other organizations observe spring break and many Kentuckians will be traveling for vacation or mission and service trips,” said Cassie Prather, Environmental Program Manager. “If that is the case, we urge you to research the area in which you’ll be traveling. If Zika has been documented in the area, make sure you take appropriate steps to protect yourself against mosquitos and the potential illnesses that they can spread. Pregnant women, or those wishing to become pregnant, should consider postponing travel to Zika-affected areas. As we move further into the warmer months of summer, mosquitoes will continue to be a problem throughout many popular vacation spots around the world. Wherever you travel, it is recommended that you always use an EPA approved mosquito repellant and wear longs sleeves and pants to prevent bites when outside and in areas where mosquitoes may be present.”
Additional information about where the virus is circulating and advice for travelers can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health website.
For prevention against mosquito bites, Montgomery County Health Department recommends the following:
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants with light coloring.
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered and approved insect repellents. Always follow instructions for the insect repellents and never use them on children younger than two months of age.
• Use mosquito netting to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
• If you are using a sunscreen, apply the sunscreen and wait 20 minutes before applying insect repellent.
• Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
• Treating clothing with permethrin according to label instructions is another option to maximize protection.
• Make sure all doors, windows, screens and other openings to your home or room close and are in good repair to prevent mosquitos from getting indoors during the day and while you sleep.
For more information, please contact: Cassie Prather with the Montgomery County Health Department at 859-497-2428.