How to Prevent Zika Virus Infection

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With the dangers associated with the Zika virus, especially in pregnancy, we must know the preventive measures. If you have plans to travel to a place where Zika has been reported, the primary prevention is avoiding mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that cause the spread of the virus are daytime biters with so much aggression and are often found indoors.

As much as you can, ensure that mosquitoes do not bite you by using repellent creams all through the day and night too. The CDC recommends the use of Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing DEET, IR3535, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. It is suggested that if you are applying sunscreen, apply the repellent next.

Both indoors and outdoors ensure proper coverage of your body by wearing shirts (preferably light colors) with long sleeves and long pants too. This protection is the best form of prevention.

For the home environment, get rid of anything or item that can encourage the breeding of mosquitoes. Any item whatsoever which can hold standing water such as tires, buckets, flower pots or planters could favor the breeding of mosquito larva. Such things should not be found in your environment. Use screens on your windows and your doors as well.

Another preventive measure is for those who just returned from travel to an affected region. They may not know that they have the virus, yet ignorance does not prevent the spread of the disease. Extreme caution against mosquito bites should be taken when travelers to affected regions return home. The CDC also recommends that condoms should be used or better still, abstinence from sex for eight weeks for women or six months for men to avoid the spread of the infection through sex.

Deliberate prevention of the spread of Zika virus transmission through sexual intercourse: Zika virus has been detected in several body fluids involved in sexual transmission. Based on the increasing evidence that the virus can be detected after sex, the WHO recommends the following to curb the spread:

  • Adequate information and education should be given to both males and females and their sexual partners in areas where the virus is circulating. This enlightenment will make them aware of the risks of sexual transmission and help them to protect themselves too.
  • There should be counseling on safe sexual practices and the correct and consistent use of condoms. Condoms should be provided, and the reason for the consistency of its use should be emphasized. Reason being that it helps to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections in their various forms and unwanted pregnancy etc.
  • The counseling should also include an offer of a full range of contraceptive methods to enable men and women to make informed decisions about pregnancy. This will allow them to prevent possible adverse effects of pregnancy and its outcomes.
  • At the same time, those who did not want to get pregnant because of worries about the Zika virus and had unprotected sex should have access to emergency contraception services and counseling.
  • Pregnant women should either practice safer sex or abstinence from sexual activity throughout the pregnancy.

For areas where there is no evidence of Zika virus, the following should be done:

  • Sexual partners of pregnant women, who just returned from an endemic region should practice safer sex or abstinence from any form of sexual activity.
  • Lastly, for couples who just returned from a known Zika circulating region, they should adopt safer sex practices or practice abstinence for at least six months. This is to ensure that the transmission of Zika virus through sexual means is prevented.

Zika virus transmission through blood transfusion can also be transmitted. All blood donations are now being properly screened for the Zika virus. To further reduce the risk of transmitting Zika virus through blood transfusion in areas where there are no reports of active Zika virus outbreaks, the Food and Drug Administration recommends not donating blood for four weeks if a person:

  • Has a history of Zika virus infection
  • Traveled or lived in an area with active Zika virus transmission
  • Have symptoms that are suggestive of Zika virus infection within two weeks upon return from an area with Zika virus
  • Has had sexual contact with a partner who has been diagnosed with Zika virus infection
  • Has had sexual contact with a partner who has traveled or lived in an area with active Zika virus transmission in the past three months.