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 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 on 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 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 became 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 significant 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 in babies without Zika infection or related defects at birth.
For these reasons, the CDC has published particular recommendations for pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant. These women and their partners are advised to avoid traveling to known Zika areas. In contrast, 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 living in Zika areas, recommendations include avoiding 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 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 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.
- Use air conditioning instead of keeping doors and windows open when possible.
- Use a mosquito net around your bed if you sleep outdoors or with open windows.
- Since mosquitoes lay eggs in water, they regularly drain pools of standing water 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 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 spaces to decrease or eliminate mosquitoes and their eggs.