Seventeen people in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have been infected with the Zika virus by local mosquitoes, according to health officials. Although 1,650 Zika infections have been reported in the United States, this is the first time patients are not linked to travel outside the United States. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
FIU neurogeneticist Matthew DeGennaro studies mosquito behavior, trying to understand their thirst for human blood. He hopes his work will lead to the development of a new generation of repellants that can make humans less attractive to an insect capable of spreading lethal viruses and disease. As his work continues, he says people can take action today to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes. Below are his recommendations.
- Wear insect repellents that contain 15 percent to 50 percent DEET. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first.
- Wear long sleeves and pants. Repellents can also be applied to clothing.
- Don’t let mosquitoes into your house. Do not open windows without screens and check the screens that are in place to ensure they are secure.
- Remove standing water from places around your home and yard. Very small quantities of standing water can become breeding sites, so be vigilant.
- Eliminate bromeliads in your yard or add MosquitoBits (larvicides) to them weekly.
- Aedes mosquitoes transmit Zika locally — they don’t travel very far, usually only a block or two. People tend to move these diseases across town. That means by protecting yourself, you can also help protect others from getting Zika.
- Zika can also be spread sexually, so women who intend to become pregnant and their partners both need to be tested for Zika.
- If you have any signs of Zika including rash and fever, avoid mosquito bites and sexual contact. Visit your doctor to be tested.