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New CDC Guidelines for Zika: What You Should Know

August 09, 2016

As of this month, the state of Florida has now had 16 confirmed homegrown cases of Zika, an infection that has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly, which leads to severe developmental delays and long-term cognitive challenges for newborns

Wynwood, a neighborhood north of Miami, has become the epicenter of the Zika outbreak in recent weeks, as the CDC issued an unprecedented travel warning that advised pregnant women and their partners not to travel to the neighborhood.  

This is the first time the CDC has issued such a warning for an American neighborhood. Since the outbreak began last year, there have been 7,360 confirmed Zika cases in the U.S., 1,817 of which were in the continental U.S. while the remaining have occurred in U.S. territories such as American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

As this health crisis remains ongoing, the CDC has issued more guidelines to reduce the spread of the outbreak. Here’s what you need to know:

Florida is the First State to Have Homegrown Zika Cases

The current outbreak in Florida is due to local mosquitoes. According to Governor Rick Scott, Florida is the first state to have locally transmitted cases of Zika. Previously, infections in the U.S. were the result of individuals traveling to a Zika infected country and returning the U.S. with the infection. 

However, the virus can spread when a mosquito bites an infected person. A mosquito then can bite another victim and transmit the virus. Health officials in Miami say the virus likely was transmitted this way and that the original person who was infected with the virus likely had no idea he or she had contracted it. The local outbreak so far has been confined to the Wynwood neighborhood in South Florida. In Orange County, there have been no reported local cases. However, as of mid-July, there have been 33 confirmed cases of the virus in our area. 

CDC Says Pregnant Women Should Avoid Wynwood Neighborhood

The CDC has issued new guidance for people who live in or have traveled to Wynwood after June 15. It has advised pregnant women not to travel to the neighborhood, a one-square mile area frequented by tourists because of its thriving arts district.

The CDC also says pregnant women and their partners who have traveled to or live in the area should do everything possible to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing insect repellant when outdoors and treating their clothing and other items with permethrin, a form of insect repellant that remains on clothing even after multiple washes. People in the local area also should take steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes while indoors, including using screens on windows and doors, using air conditioning and getting rid of trash receptacles and other containers that can hold water that attract mosquitoes.

Couples Thinking About Getting Pregnant Should Take Precautions, Too

Since we now know that Zika can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, couples who are thinking about becoming pregnant should take extra precautions. Earlier this year, the CDC set  new guidelines for sex after  Zika infection. Men who have contracted Zika should avoid unprotected sex and wait for six months before trying to get their partner pregnant. Women with Zika should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant. 

The CDC says men and women who live or have traveled to Wynwood should talk to doctor about how to lower their risk of infection. They also may need to get tested for the virus. People who traveled to the neighborhood should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant, the CDC advises.  

Florida officials are taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus. They have launched an aggressive mosquito control program that includes spraying the area with insecticides. In addition to these efforts, you can lower your risk of contracting Zika by following the preventative measures I outlined above. Only 20 percent of people who contract the virus will have symptoms, which include headache, fever, rash, joint pain and pink eyes. If you recently have traveled to a Zika-affected area and have any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away to confirm a diagnosis. Though Zika isn’t life-threatening, getting tested for the virus may help prevent the spread of infection and protect pregnant women from the virus’s serious long-term complications.