• By Sarah Frantz, MPH, CHES
  • Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Protecting yourself from Zika: What You Need to Know

What is Zika?
Zika virus spreads to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite and take blood from a person already infected with Zika. Zika can also be spread sexually, from a person who has Zika to their sexual partners. Zika can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

How to protect yourself
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, so it is important to prevent mosquito bites and breeding. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, whether you are inside or outside, all day and night. When outside, make sure you wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants. Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items. Do not spray permethrin directly onto the skin.

Use EPA-registered insect repellants. When used correctly and directed, these insect repellants are proven safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than two months old. Do not apply insect repellent onto your eyes, mouth, or cut/irritated skin. Do not apply to a child’s hands, because they are likely to put their hands in their mouth.

At home, repair holes in window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. When traveling or staying outside, stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens. Mosquito netting can be used to cover beds, cribs, play pens, carriers, and strollers. Sleep under mosquito netting if there are no window screens or if the area is not air conditioned.

Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms correctly every time, or not having sex.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding
Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in and near standing water. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water. This includes old tires, tire swings, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash/recycling containers. Check both inside and outside of your home.

For large areas of standing water, use standing water treatment tabs. These tabs kill larvae in standing water around your house. Do not put them into water that you drink. Always follow directions on the package. When used correctly, these tabs will not harm you or your pets (cats and dogs).

Pregnant and worried about Zika?
The Forsyth County Department of Public Health has Zika Pregnancy Prevention Kits available for pregnant women. Starting May 10th, stop by the Information Desk at 799 N. Highland Avenue in Winston Salem to pick up your kit for no charge. Kits are available while supplies last and for pregnant women only at this time.

For more information on Zika virus,visit: http://www.forsyth.cc/PublicHealth/mosquitosandticks.aspx or https://www.cdc.gov/zika/ or call the Environmental Health Division at 336-703-3225.

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