Latest advice for dealing with Zika virus this summer

The only way to avoid Zika infection is to steer clear of being bitten by mosquitoes

There is as yet no vaccine available for the Zika virus, though human testing of a live vaccine has begun in Austria. Photograph: EPA/Esteban Biba

There is as yet no vaccine available for the Zika virus, though human testing of a live vaccine has begun in Austria. Photograph: EPA/Esteban Biba

 

Last year many people were very worried about travelling to Latin America, the Caribbean and southern states of the United States when it was confirmed that the Zika virus was responsible for birth defects.

Zika has not gone away and is still an issue this year, especially for pregnant women or about-to-be-pregnant women. There is as yet no vaccine available, though human testing of a live vaccine has begun in Austria.

Tourism in Florida was badly hit last year when many people avoided spending holidays there, particularly in the Miami area. This year with mosquito season coming up, Florida Keys Mosquito Control is releasing thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes into the wild.

The mosquitoes are infected with a bacteria that interferes with reproduction and it is hoped they will mate with wild females that will not survive to adulthood and drive down the mosquito population.

Avoidance

The only way to avoid Zika infection is to steer clear of being bitten by mosquitoes. Wear long sleeves and long pants, use an insect repellent with Deet, spray your clothes, paying particular attention to sleeves and cuffs.

Sleep only in air-conditioned rooms or a room with screens. If not available, use mosquito nets. Many people who get the Zika virus will not know; the symptoms can be very mild. Zika can be passed through sex, so it is recommended to use a condom, or abstain when in a Zika zone.

For a list of countries where non-essential travel should be postponed during mosquito season, see the list from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (iti.ms/2q4DiJx). Countries outside the Americas and Caribbean showing Zika infections are Singapore and Senegal in West Africa. Malaysia is also a risk zone for Zika.

jscales@irishtimes.com

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