The Tennessee Department of Health confirms there have been 24 persons diagnosed with Zika virus disease in Tennessee this year. Cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been identified in a small area in Miami, Florida, but all cases in Tennessee have occurred in people returning from international travel to affected areas. This serves as a reminder that anyone traveling to affected areas should be very careful to avoid mosquito bites during travel and for three weeks after travel. Pregnant women should avoid non-essential travel to affected areas.
To prevent the virus from being spread by mosquitos in Tennessee, TDH officials are reminding residents of the increased need for local tactics to “Fight the Bite.”.
Eliminating standing water where mosquitos can lay eggs and protecting ourselves from their bites by using insect repellants are two of the easiest and most effective ways to’Fight The Bite’ to prevent Zika from spreading in our state,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “As we see steadily increasing numbers of imported cases of Zika in Tennessee, there’s a heightened need for all of us to prevent this illness from being spread locally by mosquitos.”
Abelardo Moncayo, Ph.D, director of the TDH Vector-Borne Disease program, reminds residents mosquitos can lay eggs in water containers as small as a soda bottle lid and that most mosquitos only travel a few hundred yards from where they are hatched.
“By eliminating mosquito breeding spots close to home, residents are protecting themselves and their neighbors from Zika and other illnesses spread by mosquitos,” Moncayo said. “Equally important is to use insect repellants.”
TDH recommends using repellants containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on skin and wearing clothing treated with Permethrin; all are safe by pregnant women when users follow label recommendations. Never apply the repellants around the mouth or eyes and Permethrin is generally not be used directly on skin. Permethrin-treated clothing repels mosquitoes and retains this effect after repeated washing. Some clothing products are available pretreated with permethrin.
It’s good to remember “long, loose and light” when choosing outdoor clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best, and consider, tucking your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants. Loose-fitting clothing helps prevent bites through the fabric. Light-colored clothes are less attractive to many insects and may allow you to spot them more easily.
To learn more about ways to protect yourself and your community from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases, visit:
“Whenever there is an imported case of Zika virus disease in Tennessee, we immediately launch efforts to prevent the spread of illness to others,” said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “We work to strengthen personal protection to prevent mosquito bites. We do outreach in the community, encouraging residents to protect themselves from bites and to eliminate mosquito breeding spots in their area. “
The greatest risk of harm from Zika virus disease appears to be when a pregnant woman becomes infected, especially in the first trimester. Her child may be born with serious health complications, including microcephaly (a small malformed brain developing in the womb). To date, Tennessee has not recorded a baby born with microcephaly attributed to Zika virus disease.
At present there is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus disease and no medicines to treat it. TDH recommends all residents use “Fight the Bite” tactics where they live, work and play, and for travelers to be aware of other areas where the disease is now being transmitted locally by mosquitos. Zika can also be spread sexually, so people should take precautions to prevent infection from a partner. To learn more about ongoing efforts to prevent the Zika virus disease in Tennessee, visit: http://tn.gov/health/topic/