Concerns Over Zika

Zachary Letson

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Maria Ramirez Bolivar, a Venezuelan woman who lives in Doral but contracted Zika in her first trimester while traveling in Venezuela, holds her baby girl, Micaela Milagros Mendoza, 2-months, on Aug. 24, 2016. Micalea has Zika-related calcification in her brain and scarring in her retinas. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)

Maria Ramirez Bolivar, a Venezuelan woman who lives in Doral but contracted Zika in her first trimester while traveling in Venezuela, holds her baby girl, Micaela Milagros Mendoza, 2-months, on Aug. 24, 2016. Micalea has Zika-related calcification in her brain and scarring in her retinas. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)

With new announcements of Zika outbreaks each day, everyone is seeking answers to protect themselves from “catching the bug.” While the virus is most detrimental to pregnant mothers due to heightened risks of having children with defects at birth, others may simply experience minor symptoms such as fever, joint pain, skin rash or red eyes. Some may not experience any symptoms at all.

“Only 20% of people that carry the Zika virus will manifest symptoms of the disease,” said Dr. Paola Lichtenberger, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Miami. “Most people carry and spread the virus without even knowing it.”

Dr. Lichtenberger treats patients with the Zika virus in the city of Miami, as well as several other countries in Latin America. There have been over 250 reported cases of Zika in the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward and nearly 275 in the other 33 counties of Florida, combined. Just over 40 of these cases were locally spread while the almost 485 other cases were travel-related, according to the Miami Herald’s Daily Florida Zika Virus Tracker. Nevertheless, Lichtenberger suggests not to panic about the situation.

“This is not the time to be running away, but we should be responsible and be a citizen of protecting our city from the outbreak,” she said.

The first reported case of Zika in Miami-Dade County was found downtown in an area known as Wynwood. It later spread to the highly populated city of Miami Beach. This is expected to be a major blow to tourism in that area, grabbing the attention of Mayor Carlos Giménez, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as stating “we have to work very aggressively to eliminate this as quickly as possible.”

Dr. Lichtenberger also expressed the importance of using of insect repellent, as it is one of the most effective methods of stopping the mosquito-human
cycle and preventing further spread of the disease. She recommends using any repellent tested and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including DEET, Picardin or Eucalyptus Oil. Both DEET and Picardin are safe for pregnant women and children older than 2 months. Lichtenberger also suggests purchasing a repellent with an active ingredient concentration of 20% or higher in order to reapply less often (every 4-5 hours). If you decide to also wear sunscreen, apply it prior to the repellent, as the sunscreen may possibly inactivate it. Lictenberger emphasized that we are all important players in stopping the virus from further infecting our city.