Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared “a public health emergency of international concern” when cases of the Zika virus began to spread through Latin America and the Caribbean. Before long, the virus arrived in the United States by way of Florida, and not too long after that found its way to Texas soil.

With nearly 200 cases confirmed in Texas, most of which have been in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston areas, it’s important to know your risk and how to stay protected. A great association management company will take proactive steps to guard your association and neighbors from the threat of this rapidly spreading virus. Here’s what you need to know:
What is the Zika virus and how is it transmitted?
The Zika virus is a mild, feverish illness primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. If a mosquito bites an infected person, it can pick up the virus and spread it to others. Zika can also be spread through sexual intercourse, although these reported cases are much less frequent. As an added precaution, the FDA is even requiring all donated blood to be tested for Zika before distribution to hospitals. 
Typically, only about one in five people infected with the virus are symptomatic. Symptoms can include fever, rash, muscle and joint pain, red eyes, body aches, headaches, eye pain and vomiting. While there is no specific treatment for the Zika virus, the National Institutes of Health is diligently working to develop a preventative vaccine.
Who should be tested for Zika? 
Although mild and treatable for most people, the Zika virus can have devastating consequences for an unborn child, including the birth defect microcephaly, in which a baby’s head is small due to an underdeveloped brain, and other neurological deficiencies. Since 80 percent of people infected do not experience symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant women who live in or travel to the areas at risk be tested even if they do not feel ill.
How do you prevent infection? 
The CDC is urging people to take these steps immediately to prevent mosquito bites and possible infection:
  • When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover exposed skin.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol (do not use on babies younger than 2 months of age). Of these, DEET and picaridin are considered safest for use during pregnancy.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Permethrin has been tested and approved by the FDA for use by pregnant women and children.
  • Stay inside well air-conditioned buildings or places that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos out. Be sure that screens are in good condition and will not allow mosquitos to enter.
  • Standing water is known to attract mosquitos. Reducing sources of standing water around your home and common areas will minimize locations for mosquitos to convene.
  • For a more natural approach, try planting some of these mosquito-repelling plants around your yard. Not only will they keep those pesky ‘skeeters from trespassing, but you’ll kill two birds with one stone by sprucing up your greenscaping at the same time. Among the list of commonly recommended mosquito-deterring greenery are marigolds, lavender, basil, lemon balm and catnip.

While we continue to learn more about the Zika virus evolution, the Texas Department of Health has issued a preparedness and response plan to control the transmission of this virus locally. This action plan was created to make an impact on decreasing the number of infections in Texas. However, in order to make a bigger dent, it’s important that we each do our part to protect ourselves from becoming carriers of this virus.

Here is a list of additional resources to help you stay informed about Zika virus in Texas, the risk and the solution:  

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Texas Department of State Health Services on Zika Virus
FDA response to Zika


Tuesday September 20, 2016