Zika virus information, prevention

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephen Nicer
  • 96th Medical Group
Outbreaks of Zika virus have been reported in the Americas, Africa, Asia and islands in the Pacific and Caribbean.  There has been no evidence of local transmission in the United States; all cases seen thus far are in those travelers returning from Zika affected areas. 

The continuing spread of the Zika virus has prompted NORTHCOM and the Department of Defense to issue force health protection measures for all forces located within NORTHCOM area of responsibility.   

The type of mosquito responsible for the spread of Zika, the Aedes type, is also responsible for the spread of Dengue, West Nile Fever and Chikungunya.  This particular type of mosquito is usually a daytime biter; however it is known to bite during other times as well.   Less than two percent  of the mosquitoes trapped by Eglin Public Health in 2015 were these types of Aedes. 

The most common symptoms are self-limited (last from two-seven days), and include rash, fever or headache, conjunctivitis, and joint or muscle pains. Up to 80 percent of infected individuals will have no symptoms at all.

Currently there is no vaccine to prevent illness from Zika virus, nor are there any specific treatments.  The most effective protection is to practice strict preventive measures. 

The Force Health Protection message released by NORAD and NORTHCOM February 12 stated, "Commanders will ensure service members and DoD civilians traveling to Zika virus affected areas, whether on duty or in a leave status, are aware of Centers for Disease Control travel advisories and are compliant with all force health protection recommendations including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment and other measures to prevent mosquito bites." 

Protective measures include, but are not limited to:  wearing long sleeves and pants to provide a barrier against mosquito bites; using insect repellents containing DEET, Picardin or IR3535; and applying the insecticide permethrin to the outer layers of clothing. 

In addition to these personal protective measures, treating potential breeding areas with pesticide and eliminating standing water are also very effective.  Mosquitos can breed and multiply in as little as one bottle cap of standing water in less than a week.  Be sure to drain water from house gutters, garbage cans, and any containers that can hold standing water . 

Female service members, DoD civilians and their eligible family members who are pregnant should postpone permanent change of station, temporary duty, or leave to Zika affected areas based on risk assessments, if information is available.  Women of childbearing age who are sexually active and currently serving in or will be serving in a Zika endemic area should contact their healthcare provider to receive counseling regarding the potential risks of Zika virus transmission and appropriate precautionary measures. 

The link to birth defects (microcephaly/neurologic deficits) has not been proven at this time, but precautionary measures are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention .  All service members, their dependents and DoD personnel who have traveled to Zika affected areas and suspect they may have been infected with Zika virus should inform their healthcare providers immediately and report their travel history. 

Please refer to the links below for additional recommendations and the latest up-to-date information on Zika virus.

Center for Diseases Control and Prevention
Travel information
Florida Department of Health

For any questions or additional information, call Public Health at 883-8608 or email at 96amds.publichealth@us.af.mil.