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How To Prevent The Spread Of Zika Virus Infection

Zika virus infection is a vector-borne disease that is spread by the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Zika virus infection in India was detected in Kerala during the first week of July in a pregnant woman, and this is considered to be the first case of infection since 2017. New reports say that since then, the Zika virus cases have increased as it has infected around 61 people in Kerala.

Zika virus infection is transmitted like other vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue, in which the female mosquitoes bite the infected person, and in the process, get the virus transmitted to their bodies and then, transmit it to the person they bite next. [1]

There are also other ways in which the Zika virus is transmitted such as intercourse, bodily fluids, surgeries, organ transplantation or intrauterine transmission from infected mother to newborns. [2]

Zika virus infection has no vaccine for a cure. Therefore, its prevention is only the foremost strategy to control the spread.

In this article, we will discuss some of the ways to prevent the spread of Zika virus infection. Take a look.

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1. Pick the right mosquito repellent

Many types of mosquito repellents are available in the market. However, according to the CDC, EPA-registered insect repellents are considered the best to prevent the mosquitoes causing Zika virus infection.

EPA repellents are safe and effective, even for breastfeeding and pregnant women. Repellents including active ingredients such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin or IR 3535 are also effective against the virus. [3]

2. Apply the repellents correctly

Applying mosquito repellents is as important as getting the right one. If you are using sunscreen, the repellent must be applied after the sunscreen. Don't wear the repellent under the clothes as it can evaporate and accumulate on the fabric.

Also, don't forget to spray or apply on the ankles and feet and avoid spraying on the cuts and wounds. Apply the repellent on the body areas which are more exposed such as hands and feet and wash the hands after its application.

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3. Wear full-sleeved and long clothes

Clothes play an important role in preventing the bites of mosquitoes. As we know that Aedes mosquitoes are more active during the daytime, therefore, whenever going outside, it is advised to wear full-sleeved shirts, t-shirts or tops and long pants.

If you're living in a Zika affected zone, wear clothes that contain permethrin, a synthetic insecticide. This is one of the best tips to prevent Zika virus infection. [4]

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4. Keep the home and surroundings clean

Even a small area of stagnant water near or at the home can serve as a mosquito breeding ground and lead to an increase in their numbers.

Therefore, it is very essential to eliminate standing water in your home and the surrounding areas, including the flower pots, bottles and accumulated garbage. [5] Maintain proper drainage in the house and adequate garbage management to hinder their multiplication.

5. Stay away from bodily fluids

An infected person's bodily fluids such as urine, vomit and stool carry the Zika infection and may get transmitted to another person upon exposure.

According to the CDC, if you are taking care of a Zika-infected person, avoid touching or exposing any skin part to their blood and bodily fluids or surfaces where there is fluid. If by mistake you do so, wash the hands immediately with soap and water and change and wash clothes with detergents if they have fluids on them. [6]

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6. Use disinfectants

Daily household cleaning is an important part of hygiene. However, if you are staying in a Zika prone area or taking care of someone with the infection, it becomes the foremost task to clean the household daily with disinfectants to prevent the virus from spreading.

Also, clean the surface immediately if they have blood or body fluids on them.

7. Protect yourself during sex

First of all, it is advised to avoid sex at all if you have the Zika infection, or your partner has the infection, or your partner has recently travelled to the area where Zika is endemic. This is because the Zika virus can be transmitted through bodily fluid, which includes semen, saliva and vaginal discharge.

Use condoms from start to finish during sexual intercourse, be it vaginal, oral or anal. You can also use dental dams for certain types of oral sex (mouth to vagina or mouth to anus). [7]

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8. Avoid sexual activity during pregnancy

Sexual activity during pregnancy by the infected partner is among the major causes of rising birth defects in newborns, due to transmission of Zika infection from mother to the foetus. A study says to avoid sexual activity for at least six months, from the start of the male partner's symptoms or from the date when he was diagnosed with Zika, or after he has returned from an area where Zika is endemic. [8]

The CDC says to talk to your doctor if you are trying to get pregnant and your partner has returned from a Zika-affected area, or you have symptoms of the infection, or you are pregnant and have travelled to an area with risk of Zika, or planning to get pregnant after travelling to a Zika affected area. [9]

9. Travel Smart

The best way to avoid Zika virus infection is to avoid visiting infected areas at all. If you have to travel to an affected country, talk to your doctor to understand ways to prevent their exposure. Stay at places with proper air-conditioning, sleep under bed nets, wear full-sleeved clothes and use mosquito repellent at all times.

After the visit, look for the symptoms, perform protected sex or avoid sex at all with your partner and go for a checkup even if the symptoms are not prevalent. [10]

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10. Blood Transfusion

The primary mode of transmission of Zika is mosquitoes, however, the risk of transmission through blood transfusion has also been reported in many countries like Brazil. People who have donated blood and witnessed symptoms of Zika virus infections in the past, could spread the infection unknowingly.

Therefore, the best way to prevent it is to report before blood donation, about your past history of Zika or travel history, so that a possible RT-PCR test could be carried out to detect the Zika virus RNA in the blood and the risk of infection through blood transfusion may be reduced. [11]

To Conclude

Zika virus infection causes symptoms only in around 20 per cent of individuals, while the remaining remain asymptomatic. Also, the symptoms are often mild and similar to dengue and chikungunya, and may get life-threatening in some immune-compromised individuals or in pregnant women. Also, in India, Zika virus infection is rare compared to other countries.

The aforementioned points are to help you stay away from Zika infection and prevent its spread, in case you have contracted the infection due to many causes. Also, consult a medical expert soon for early treatment.