As summer temperatures and rains continue to increase, you'll likely be hearing talk again about the Zika virus—which can be contracted from a mosquito and can have potentially devastating effects on unborn babies. Here in Florida, where the mosquito is often jokingly called the state bird, many of us mama’s are concerned about Zika. Knowing the facts about Zika and taking a few easy steps can reduce your risk and ease your worries a lot.
Zika virus can cause: fever, joint pain, a rash and pink eye. Symptoms are usually mild and clear up within a week. Only 1 in 5 people with Zika will develop symptoms, and there is rarely a need for hospitalization. However, in February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of emergency related to the Zika virus' causing microencephaly (small head) and other brain abnormalities in babies.
Mosquitos can carry the virus from person to person, and a mother can pass the virus on to her unborn baby. Zika can also be spread through sexual activity, and men should use a condom or abstain from sex with a pregnant woman if they have been exposed to the virus.
Breastfeeding does not spread the virus, and the benefits of breastfeeding for the infant and the mother far outweigh any potential risk of the virus being spread through breast milk, according to the WHO. Women who are breastfeeding are encouraged to continue.
Parents should take steps to help their children protect themselves from mosquito bites and make sure that anyone else who cares for their children will do this, as well. This is includes during daytime hours. While mosquitos are most active in the evening, they can still bite during daytime hours.
- Decrease mosquito activity around your home by eliminating any standing water; empty any pots, planters, buckets, gutters or toys that could collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for mosquitos.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET when possible, or an alternative ingredient for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, long sleeve and loose-fitting clothes to prevent getting bit, especially when planning to be outdoors during the evening hours. Dress children in lightweight clothes that cover as well.