Parents, keep your kids safe from mosquito bites.
That’s always been the message in humid South Florida summers. But with a mosquito species prevalent in South Florida primarily responsible for the spread of the Zika virus, officials are emphasizing protection against insects more than ever.
“I think people need to be cautious because mosquitoes can transmit not only Zika but other viruses,” said Dr. Lilian Abbo, chief of infection control and antimicrobial stewardship for Jackson Health System. “I think people should not be in panic, but in alert.”
“No one likes to be bitten by mosquitoes, regardless of the diseases they could carry.”
While there have not yet been any locally contracted cases of the virus, health officials are taking steps to protect against Aedes aegytpi, the mosquito species endemic to South Florida and primary transmitter of Zika virus. As of Monday, Florida had 358 travel-related Zika cases, including 48 cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms, second in the country after New York.
“If you’re here in Miami, my only recommendation is to cover up, take care of the garbage and standing water, and wear mosquito repellant,” Abbo said.
Led by the Florida Department of Health, Miami-Dade County has shared the Spill the Water! campaign to help teach kids to wear long clothing, and drain any standing around water around the house. With a superhero twist, the campaign teaches to empty containers like toys and buckets that can hold water and to wear “cover-up costumes” to protect against mosquitoes.
The main concern surrounding the Zika virus is the effect on pregnant women and their unborn children, especially after research established a link between prenatal Zika infection and microcephaly, a congenital condition that causes smaller infant heads and stunted brain development.
“The main concern in the community is the uncertainty for the women who are pregnant or women who are looking to become pregnant,” said Dr. Marcelo Laufer, who works in the pediatric infectious diseases department at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Unanswered questions remain about the effects of the Zika virus on unborn children and how many pregnancies will be affected.
“I don’t think, in general, people should be afraid,” Laufer said. “People should be careful. I think society has been exposed to epidemics in the past, and will be exposed in the future.
“This is another one we are being challenged with.”