Even with a somewhat diminished Zika threat — for now — mosquito season remains in full swing for South Florida through September and precautions are recommended by public health officials.
And if the Zika virus is merely lurking, new local cases could start cropping up at any moment, officials caution. Moreover, mosquitoes can spread other more common illnesses.
Last summer, Zika reportedly circulated in parts of South Florida for months before it was detected by health officials, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature . The study concluded that Miami’s Zika outbreak was caused mostly by infected travelers arriving from the Caribbean, the region with the highest incidence of the disease.
Florida health officials are reporting fewer Zika cases this year, compared to the same time last year, and no locally transmitted infections have surfaced thus far in 2017. The Florida Department of Health has reported a total of 146 Zika cases as of Thursday, with the vast majority being travel-related cases and some locally acquired ones first reported last year.
Those findings should reinforce the need for travelers throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region to protect themselves from exposures to mosquitoes. As should South Florida residents, says Gabriel Solti Grasz, M.D. , an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care .
“Although Zika has been the most recent concern, mosquitoes can transmit many other illnesses, such as West Nile Virus, dengue, yellow fever and more,” says Dr. Solti-Grasz. “It is always important to protect yourself, especially when travelling.”
(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Gabriel Solti-Grasz, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, about protecting yourself and your family from mosquitoes. Video by George Carvalho and Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues.)
Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, the species that carries the Zika virus and other illnesses such as dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, can infect multiple hosts. This illnesses can spread when another mosquito bites an infected person. Zika fever is a mild illness caused by a mosquito-borne virus similar to those that cause dengue and West Nile virus infections. But the Zika virus has been linked to serious birth defects.
Approximately one in 10 pregnancies with laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection in 2016 resulted in a fetus or infant with Zika virus–associated birth defects in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recently.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
Here are valuable tips from the CDC:
- Protect yourself when traveling: Learn about country-specific travel advice, health risks, and how to stay safe by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website .
- Use insect repellent: Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective. These ingredients are:
– Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin
– Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Cover up: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Keep mosquitoes outside: Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Learn more: Travelers can learn more about mosquito bite prevention in this fact sheet from the CDC .
If You have a Baby or Child
- Always follow product instructions when applying insect repellent to children.
- Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Do not apply insect repellent to a child’s hands, mouth, cut or irritated skin.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months.
- Dress babies or small children in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover cribs, strollers or baby carriers with mosquito netting.
Stop Mosquitoes From Breeding
- Put away items that are outside and not being used because they could hold standing water. Mosquitoes breed by laying eggs in and near standing water. – As little as one teaspoon or bottle cap of water standing for more than one week is enough for mosquitoes to breed and multiply.
- Keep flower pots and saucers free of standing water. Some plants, such as bromeliads, hold water in their leaves—flush out water-holding plants with your hose once a week.
- At least once a week, empty, turn over or cover anything that could hold water: tires, buckets, toys, pools & pool covers, birdbaths, trash, trash containers, recycling bins, boat or car covers, roof gutters, coolers, and pet dishes.
Click here  for Zika virus updates from Baptist Health.