With the Olympics heading to Rio this August, there are fears of an increased spread of the Zika virus. Scientists are working hard to determine the risk to the estimated 500,000 people from all around the world converging in Brazil and being potentially exposed to Zika through infected mosquito bites.
Will we see a spread of the virus to the continental United States and beyond once the Olympic dust settles and travelers return home? It is hard to say. What we know is that this virus is spread by the bite of blood-feeding, infected Aedes mosquitoes.
The Zika virus can exist in the patient’s bloodstream for three to five days, and in the urine for up to 14 days. If that patient is in the United States, it is certainly plausible to imagine that a mosquito could bite him or her, pick up blood carrying the virus, and then turn around and bite another person, thereby transferring the virus to that person. This would be considered local transmission.
Now is the time to educate yourself on how to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, whether you are in the U.S. or traveling to a Zika endemic country. We have effective mosquito repellents recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Use them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds. Once a week, empty any containers in your yard or inside the house that has standing water.
The Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted. Men with a positive diagnosis for Zika are counseled to abstain from sex or to use condoms for at least six months post diagnosis. This is because the virus is found in semen and can be transmitted to other men or women.
When it comes to Zika, fear is good because it compels us to be prepared.
Bindu S. Mayi, Ph.D., and Marie Florent-Carre, D.O., M.P.H., Nova Southeastern University,