What You Need to Know about Zika

Since Zika was discovered in May 2015, it has been spreading rapidly throughout South and Central America. Dr. Thomas Harris, an urgent care physician at MediServe Walk-In Clinic, provides the following facts and prevention tips.

The Facts on Zika

Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus, it is spread to people usually through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. However, it can also be sexually transmitted  from one person to another. The common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is normally mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The symptoms can be so mild many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected they are likely immune from further infections. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

Zika virus is a relatively new disease for the Western hemisphere. It first appeared in Brazil in May of 2015. It has since spread to over 20 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

In Arkansas we have both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito species see map and either can transmit Zika. These are both mosquitoes that bite during the day.

Prevention Tips

The primary method to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites.

#1: Use insect repellent when outdoors. 

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents* that contain at least 20% DEET (products include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods) for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs.
  • Alternative repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs: 
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin); products include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD); products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
    • IR3535; products include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart
  • Find the EPA-registered insect repellent that is right for you. The effectiveness of insect repellents that are not registered with the EPA, including some natural repellents, is not known. For more information, see EPA’s website.

#2:  When using insect repellent, follow the instructions on the package and reapply as directed:

  • In general, higher percentages of the active ingredient provide longer-lasting protection. However, this increase in protection time maximizes at about 50% DEET.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry, and then apply repellent. Do not use products that contain both sunscreen and repellent.
  • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

#3:  Consider using protective clothing and gear.

Consider using boots, pants, socks, and tents that are treated with permethrin, an insecticide. You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

#4:  Control mosquitoes outside your home

  • Install or repair and use window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like animal water bowls, tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
  • For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
  • Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
  • Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
  • If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.

#5: Control mosquitoes inside your home

  • Use an indoor fogger* or indoor insect spray* to reach and treat areas were mosquitos rest inside the home.
  • Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid places like under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
  • Kill mosquitoes inside your home. Use an indoor flying insect fogger* or indoor insect spray* to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. These products work immediately, but may need to be reapplied. Always follow label directions. Only using insecticide will not keep your home free of mosquitoes.
  • Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like vases and flowerpot saucers.
  • Keep windows and doors shut and use air conditioning when possible.

More information on Zika

Thomas Harris, MDDr. Thomas Harris is an urgent care physician at MediServe Walk-In Clinic on Wedington Drive. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Family Medicine and is experienced in urgent care and family medicine.