Methods to Protect Yourself from the Zika Virus

–Johns Hopkins experts offer guidance to avoid disease transmission

With Zika virus emerging as a public health concern worldwide, experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital are closely monitoring the spread of the mosquito-borne illness and offering useful information to help prevent transmission.

First, Johns Hopkins experts encourage people to do their homework. “When facing any infectious disease virus, like Zika virus, it’s important to remain calm and arm ourselves with the facts,” says Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System. “Be sure you are getting your information from a reliable medical resource.”

Transmission of Zika virus has been confirmed in dozens of countries. It is most often spread through bites from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, but it has also been transmitted, in rare cases, sexually and through blood transfusion or laboratory exposure.

Some people are choosing to limit travel to countries affected by Zika. However, for those who do plan to travel, protection is the key to prevention.

“The same methods people might use to protect themselves from other mosquito-borne illnesses or mosquito bites in general will be effective with the most common type of transmission of Zika which is mosquito to human,” says Maragakis. “So all of the things you think about — staying indoors, avoiding outdoor areas that have a lot of outdoor water reservoirs and mosquitoes, using insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and long pants, particularly in materials that have been treated to repel mosquitoes — these are all ways we can avoid Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”

People with Zika virus may not show symptoms, though mild fevers and rashes are possible. While anyone can contract Zika virus, pregnant women are the most at risk due to the suspected link between Zika and fetal microcephaly and other neurologic abnormalities.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, though ongoing research may be relevant in the development of a vaccine. Johns Hopkins Medicine hospitals have implemented screening procedures, with a focus on recent travel.

Please here to view an interview with Dr. Maragakis on Zika virus. Journalists can download raw sound bites, B-roll video and an anchor script here. For more information, please visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Zika virus information website.