With the first case of Zika virus in Northern Kentucky recently confirmed in a Boone County man, the Northern Kentucky Health Department is urging residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. The infected individual has a history of travel to an area where Zika virus has been found, and was diagnosed upon his return.
A total of 820 cases of Zika virus have been reported in U.S. states and the District of Columbia as of June 22, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes six cases from Kentucky. All cases reported to date in the U.S. have been associated with travel to a Zika-affected area.
“Zika virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.”
The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis). Approximately 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. For people who get sick, the illness is usually mild. For this reason, many people may not realize they have been infected. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other brain abnormalities in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.
To prevent additional travel-associated cases, the Health Department recommends the following:
- Pregnant women should delay travel to a Zika-affected area.
- Take steps to avoid bug bites by using insect repellent, staying indoors and wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible.
- Continue these precautions for mosquito bites for three weeks upon returning home. Be on the lookout for symptoms, and contact your health care provider right away if you think you may be infected. Be sure to tell your health care provider about your travels.
- There is evidence that Zika is transmitted through sexual contact as well. Individuals who have traveled to areas where Zika virus has been found are advised to either use condoms or abstain from sex, and should consult with a health care provider about specific recommendations and timeframes.
“It is possible for Zika to be transmitted to our local mosquitoes by infected travelers—even those who do not have symptoms,” said Saddler. “Infected mosquitoes could then transmit the virus to other people, so it’s also key that Northern Kentuckians take steps to prevent mosquito bites at home as well,” said Saddler.
Precautions at home include:
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent. Look for the following active ingredients: DEET, picardin or IR 3535. Mosquitoes that carry Zika are active at day and night, so repellent should be worn any time you are outdoors.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants when possible. Use insect repellent on your clothes as well. For extra protection, wear clothing treated with permethrin.
- Mosquito-proof your home. Use screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning when available. Remove all standing water from your property. Common places for standing water include pool covers, empty flowerpots and clogged gutters.
For more information, including fact sheets and additional resources for pregnant women and travelers, please click here.