With many Michigan residents traveling and warmer months approaching across the United States, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reminding travelers to protect themselves from Zika virus.

Mosquito on human hand
ThinkStock; Anest

Zika virus disease is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These mosquitoes have not been found in Michigan, but are common in tropical areas and some parts of the United States.

“The best way to prevent mosquito-borne illness is to protect yourself and those closest to you from mosquito bites in an area with local Zika transmission,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive with the MDHHS.  “These mosquitoes bite during the day.  Prevent mosquito bites by using EPA approved insect repellents and staying in accommodations with air conditioning and window screens.”

Zika virus illness is typically mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, Zika virus infection is a cause of microcephaly and other serious fetal brain defects. Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon condition of the nervous system following infections.

It is important that all residents of reproductive age are aware of the risks associated with sexual transmission of Zika virus.  Zika can be spread through sexual transmission from men to women before, during, and after symptoms develop. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommend the following for travelers:

  • Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If they must travel, they should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
  • For non-pregnant women and men who travel and experience no symptoms, it is recommended they avoid pregnancy for eight weeks.
  • For men who return from travel and do have symptoms, it is recommended they use condoms for six months.
  • Men who have a pregnant partner and have been in an area with Zika transmission should either use condoms the right way every time they have sex, or not have sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

To date, there have been two travel-related cases reported in Michigan, neither were pregnant. MDHHS is working closely with the CDC to find additional Zika cases in returning travelers or their partners, and coordinate with local health departments to enhance mosquito surveillance programs. The MDHHS laboratory is adding capacity to test for Zika infection, which will improve public health response time. This is an emerging disease and recommendations are changing as new information becomes available.  For the most current information about Zika, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.

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