A mosquito bite in Miami can leave its host with more than an itchy bump.
With cases of locally transmitted Zika piling up — as of Wednesday morning there were 15 cases in South Florida, mainly in Wynwood —catching the exotic virus is now a possibility for South Floridians.
And while the biggest threat is to pregnant women —who can give birth to babies with smaller heads whose brains may not have developed fully — health officials are concerned with anyone who has contracted the virus.
So, how do you know if you have contracted Zika?
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Only one in five infected people even show symptoms of the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health. And the symptoms are mild: a low fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, body aches, headaches, eye pain and vomiting. It’s no worse than a bad flu, and the symptoms fade in a week. Six of the 10 cases first reported out of Wynwood were asymptomatic, according to the FDH.
The virus can also be transmitted through sex, but as long as both participants use protection (like a condom) the risk of infection is low.
Experts stress that wearing long-sleeved clothes and pants, using bug repellent and dumping standing water where mosquitoes can reproduce are the best ways to lower the chance of infection from any mosquito-bourne disease.
There are two tests to find out if someone has the virus: The PCR test, which tests urine, shows if a person has been exposed to the virus in the two weeks prior to being tested. A second test, the IgM antibodies test, tests blood to see if the Zika virus has ever been present in the body. Results come back in three to five days.
The tests are offered for free by the Florida Department of Health, or for $250-$500 from private labs, which generally aren’t covered by insurance. To schedule a free test, call the Miami-Dade Department of Health at 305-324-2400.
Miami Herald reporter Emily Cochrane contributed to this report.
WHOM TO CALL FOR ZIKA TESTING
People who live in the area north of downtown and want to be tested for Zika should contact the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County at 305-324-2400 for more information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday advised pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. Pregnant women and their partners living in or traveling to the area should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Women and men who live in or traveled to the area since June 15 and who have a pregnant sex partner should use condoms or abstain from sex during pregnancy. All pregnant women in the United States should be tested for possible Zika virus exposure during each prenatal care visit.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention