The level of unease about the Zika virus is on the rise in Florida, according to a new poll conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.
The online poll, which was conducted Aug. 14 to Aug. 18, surveyed 1,500 adults in Florida, according to a news release from Saint Leo University.
Polling ended a day before Gov. Rick Scott announced that mosquitos are spreading the virus in the Miami area and five days before the governor announced a non-travel related case of Zika was found in Pinellas County, the release says.
The university’s August poll found that 79.3 percent of respondents say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the virus. Of those remaining, 1.1 percent say they are “somewhat unconcerned,” 7.5 percent indicate they are “not at all concerned,” and 2.1 percent say they are unsure or do not know enough to answer.
The poll had a plus or minus margin of error of 3.0 percent.
The polling institute’s June survey of 500 adults in Florida showed 71.2 percent of respondents expressing concern.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control describes the ailment as being caused by the Zika virus, which is spread mainly through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus).
The virus can be passed from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus. The CDC also confirmed that the virus is responsible for severe defects, including microcephaly, in unborn children. When delivered, such babies have abnormally small heads and often, brain defects.
The disease also can be spread through sexual contact, according to the CDC.
Many of those infected with the virus have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, according to the CDC. The symptoms can include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). There is no specific medication for the virus.
In general, people who are healthy and are not thinking of having children anytime soon have little to nothing to worry about from Zika, Dr. Cheryl Clauson, Saint Leo University assistant professor of biology said, in the release.
“There may be an association between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, however, this only occurs in a very small number of people who contract Zika,” Clauson said.
But, she continued, “pregnant women need to be very careful about traveling to the affected areas of Miami. Pregnant women should avoid the area altogether if possible, postponing non-essential travel as needed. If a woman who is currently pregnant lives in these areas of Miami, she should talk to her health care provider about getting tested for Zika during her pregnancy. Her partner would need to use condoms throughout the pregnancy to prevent possibly passing Zika to her.”
The Saint Leo biologist advised couples who are considering having children to wait at least eight weeks after returning from a Zika-affected area before trying to get pregnant, even if the woman does not have a confirmed case. “Men who did not have a confirmed Zika infection should also wait eight weeks. However, if he had a confirmed Zika infection, he should wait six months before trying to get pregnant with his female partner,” Clauson said.
Florida’s counties are taking steps to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds and prevent the spread of the Zika virus. The Aedes species are “aggressive daytime biters,” according to the CDC, but also can bite at night.
Clauson recommends using insect repellants with particular active ingredients: DEET, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or picaridin. “Because many people who use repellant may also use sunscreen, the repellant should be applied after sunscreen is applied,” she said.
Floridians also should empty anything outside their houses that could hold standing water—planters, small boats, pet bowls—to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in those containers.
Protect yourself from the Zika virus
To help protect yourself, the CDC recommends people:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out
- Sleep under a mosquito net if you are outdoors or unable to keep mosquitoes out
- Use repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Follow product label instructions
- Reapply as directed
The CDC also offers these additional tips: Do not spray repellent on skin under clothing, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent and do not apply insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months.
To protect your child, dress him or her in clothing that covers the arms and legs. Also, do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or cut or irritated skin.
Published August 31, 2016