How to Keep Zika from Spreading

Expert advice on keeping Zika virus under control in the West

(RxWiki News) Zika virus may be the new kid in town, but it's not a very welcome visitor.

To that end, a team of experts have now offered their advice on how to keep Zika from spreading in the Western Hemisphere. The primary suggestion: mosquito avoidance.

Experts Lin H. Chen, MD, and Davidson H. Hamer, MD, reviewed what is known about Zika and developed these recommendations.

Dr. Hamer is an infectious disease specialist at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Chen is the director of the Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.

The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1948, and is a member of the same virus family that includes both yellow and dengue fever. All are spread by the Aedes mosquito.

Because this mosquito is distributed worldwide, Zika can spread fairly rapidly once mosquitoes in a particular area bite people who are infected.

Symptoms are similar to those of the flu, including fever, joint pain, headache and vomiting. Unlike the flu, however, Zika can also cause rash. No vaccine for the virus currently exists, and treatment typically consists of supportive measures, like fluids, rest and medications used to relieve fever.

Most people who are infected with Zika don't develop serious symptoms — some people have none — and hospitalizations and death are rare. The virus may be dangerous to babies in the womb, however.

Brazil, a country where Zika outbreaks have recently become a problem, noted an increase in babies born with a birth defect called microcephaly. Babies with microcephaly have abnormal brain development and may be unable to survive after birth.

Some reports of Guillain Barre, a neurological disorder similar to polio, have also surfaced.

Drs. Chen and Hamer recommend pregnant women be extremely careful about mosquitoes.

Recommended mosquito repellents include DEET, picaridin and IR3535 — all of which can be used by both pregnant and breastfeeding women. Repellents should be reapplied frequently.

Window screens can help prevent being bitten indoors, while draining stagnant water can eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Spraying insecticides may also be appropriate in some situations.

Women who are pregnant should also avoid traveling to areas where outbreaks of Zika virus have occurred, according to these experts.

These recommendations were published Feb. 1 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
February 1, 2016