As of early 2017, there were more than 5,100 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the continental United States, including over 1,000 pregnant women who had been infected. Miami, Florida, was the first U.S. location to document local, mosquito-borne transmissions of the virus, making Florida a focal point in the fight against this illness that can have devastating effects for pregnant women and babies born to infected mothers.
Is Zika in Orlando?
While Florida’s mosquito control efforts have been somewhat successful in stopping Zika’s spread—in December 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott even declared South Beach and all other areas of Florida to be Zika-free—the virus still remains a threat in Miami-Dade County, along with other parts of the state. So what about central Florida? Is Zika in Orlando? Let’s take a look at the facts.
How Zika Spread to the United States
While the spread of Zika in the United States first came to public prominence in 2015, this virus isn’t new. Identified in monkeys in Uganda since the 1940s and humans in Uganda and Tanzania since the 1950s, Zika infections didn’t see their first major outbreak until 2007, on the Island of Yap. Since then, several countries, including the United States, have experienced Zika outbreaks. By early 2016, the connection was finally made in Brazil between rising Zika outbreaks and clusters of neurological birth defects like microcephaly in newborn babies.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been over 1,200 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida since 2015. While Florida has recently seen a decrease in Zika infections thanks to aggressive mosquito control efforts, the disease still presents a potential risk for residents of Orlando and other areas of the state. This is especially true for residents and visitors who are pregnant, elderly or with compromised immune systems. Furthermore, though local efforts are helping stop the spread of the virus, it can still be brought into Florida by people traveling from other areas, and has also been known to have spread through sexual transmission.
Why Zika Is Such a Threat
According to the CDC, the Zika virus can cause miscarriage in pregnant women and can also cause severe neurological birth defects, including microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers. More recently, studies have also suggested that symptoms can develop later on in babies who showed no signs of Zika infection or related defects at birth.
For these reasons, the CDC has published special recommendations for pregnant women and women who are planning to become pregnant. These women, along with their partners, are advised to avoid traveling to known Zika areas, while women and their partners who have traveled to Zika areas since August 2016 are urged to visit their healthcare providers for testing. As for women and their partners who live in Zika areas, recommendations include taking steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Orlando Zika Risk
Fortunately, no documented cases of locally transmitted Zika viruses have been reported in Orlando. Still, isolated transmission incidences can still occur, and it is wise for Orlando residents who are concerned about Zika infection to minimize exposure to mosquitoes. If you plan to visit Disney or another of Orlando’s fantastic amusement and theme parks, you can take advantage of the free mosquito repellent offered to all park visitors.
If you do travel to a known Zika area, or if you live in an area that has had documented Zika cases, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider and be sure to contact your doctor promptly if you develop a fever that is accompanied by a rash, joint pain or red eyes.
How to Avoid Mosquito Bites
How can one avoid mosquito bites in a state with a climate as hospitable to these pesky little insects as Florida’s? It may seem impossible, but there are actually many common-sense steps you can take to protect yourself. The CDC and other health professionals recommend that Florida residents take the following steps to control mosquito populations around their homes and yards:
- Use screens on doors and windows
- When possible, use air conditioning instead of keeping opening doors and windows open
- If sleeping outdoors or with open windows, use a mosquito net around your bed
- Since mosquitoes lay eggs in water, regularly drain pools of standing water both inside and outside the home, such as those found in flower pots, bird baths, children’s toys and trash containers
- Health professionals also recommend wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent when outside in a Zika area.
Lower Your Zika Risk Through Mosquito Control Measures
The best way to lower your risk of exposure to Zika is through preventative efforts. Keeping your yard mosquito-free is a tall order, especially in an area like Orlando. Have a professional pest control company like ABC treat your outdoor areas to decrease or eliminate mosquitoes and their eggs.