Over the last two weeks, the number of Zika cases spreading in Sonora, Mexico has increased significantly, prompting officials from Maricopa County Department of Public Health to remind women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas.
“Zika is very much still a public health threat and is known to cause severe birth defects to a woman’s unborn child, including microcephaly, a condition that affects the baby’s brain development,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Medical Director for Disease Control at Maricopa County Public Health. “The best prevention is for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant to avoid traveling to areas with Zika transmission. And because Zika can be a sexually-transmitted disease, these women should also avoid having unprotected sex with someone who has traveled to an area with Zika.”
Zika symptoms usually start 3-14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and can last for several days to a week; however, only 1 out of 5 people with Zika will have symptoms. The people who do become sick may develop fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, or muscle pain. It typically causes a mild illness with symptoms lasting a few days to a week.
Sunenshine added that if a woman has recently visited a Zika-affected area and is pregnant or becomes pregnant, she should consult with her healthcare provider.
To date, all Zika cases in Arizona have been connected to individuals who have traveled to a Zika-affected area. Maricopa County has had one case of travel-related Zika this year. Mosquito-borne Zika transmission has not been documented in Arizona.
CDC recommends that all Individuals returning from Zika-affected areas should protect themselves from mosquito bites for at least 21 days (3 weeks) to prevent further mosquito bites and community spread of the virus. Men should also use condoms for at least 3 months when having sex as Zika can be transmitted sexually regardless of symptoms.
CDC recommends that pregnant women who travel to or live in areas with Zika avoid unprotected sexual contact for the duration of pregnancy or use condoms to prevent Zika transmission. For those who plan to conceive and travel to or live in areas with Zika, CDC recommends waiting a minimum of 8 weeks after symptom onset or date of last possible exposure to Zika, and men should wait a minimum of 3 months after symptom onset or date of last possible exposure to Zika.
Mosquito bites can be prevented by using insect repellents according to the label, wearing long sleeves and pants, staying indoors when possible, and keeping windows closed or screened. Additionally, any outdoor water containers (even small ones like toys left out in the rain) should be dumped out twice a week so mosquitoes cannot breed in them.