A letter from the Boca Grande Health Clinic

zika-warningDear friends and patients of the Boca Grande Health Clinic:

As the “season” approaches, it seems timely to send out an update about Zika virus disease. You might be aware that Zika virus is now endemic in a small area of Miami Beach. There have been almost 100 non-travel-related cases in Miami-Dade County, and the virus has been found there in mosquitos and their larvae.

Although the number of cases in Miami Beach continues to creep up, it is not spreading to the rest of the state. Boca Grande is safe.

There have been no cases of locally spread Zika virus disease in Southwest Florida, and in fact only one case of travel-related Zika has occurred in Charlotte County, three cases in Sarasota County and 13 in Lee County. So far, Lee, Sarasota and Charlotte Counties have not had any non-travel-related cases, and no mosquitos in our local area have been found to carry the virus. Local spraying has been effective in killing off local mosquitos. (In fact, I haven’t seen a mosquito in weeks.)

Zika virus disease is usually asymptomatic, but if one does have symptoms, they are usually mild and resolve with rest, fluids and analgesics, like most acute viral infections. Typical symptoms are rash, fever, joint pain and swelling and red eyes. Only one person in five will have any symptoms.

Of concern is that infected pregnant women, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, can spread the virus via the bloodstream and through the placenta and umbilical cord to their unborn babies. Affected infants can have severe birth defects, including microcephaly (small brains).

Women can become infected by being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus or by sexual contact with a partner who has been infected. Experts now say that men may carry the virus for as long as six months following an acute infection.

The CDC therefore recommends abstaining from sex or using condoms, and delaying pregnancy for six months following a visit to an area known to have Zika virus-carrying mosquitos. These areas include Latin America, the Caribbean and Miami Beach.

If a woman does develop an infection, it is recommended that she wait six months before becoming pregnant. The best way to prevent Zika infection is to prevent mosquito bites. The mosquito that carries the virus is Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that typically bites during the day.

Prevent bites by ridding your property of any standing water (even small amounts can have mosquito larvae) and use a DEET-containing insect repellant. DEET is safe, even for pregnant women. The Clinic is monitoring the Zika situation closely and will provide updates monthly or as necessary.

Please don’t rely on hearsay or the uninformed for Zika facts. For much more information, please visit the following websites: FL Department of Health Microsite on Zika virus (updated daily): floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/zika-virus/index.html?utm_source=flhealthIndex Latest info on Zika virus from the CDC: cdc.gov/zika/ Follow the Clinic Twitter feed @boca_clinic forZika updates.

I will also be devoting time to discussing Zika virus disease in my biennial talk, scheduled for December 6, 2016.

The Boca Beacon will also carry information about Zika in our first Curbside Consult column.

Jeff Humbarger,

Medical Director Boca Grande Health Clinic