There's some good news on the health front for Americans, and especially for Floridians. The threat of the dreaded Zika virus is weakening, if not disappearing.
Cases are down by 95 percent from last year in Brazil. Outbreaks have also subsided across the Caribbean.
In Florida, the virus appears to be disappearing already. Health officials have not encountered a new Zika case for more than 45 days in Miami-Dade County. Also last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the last travel warning for southern Florida. Pregnant women are no longer being discouraged from traveling to the region.
Dr. Christine Curry, an OB-GYN at the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital said: “That’s really exciting news. Everybody has sort of exhaled.”
Still, Dr. Curry was quick to clarify that the full threat to pregnant women, whether travelers or residents isn’t totally over in Florida or abroad.
Dr. Curry offers advice to Florida women who are pregnant and their families. She said: “We can’t go back to the days before Zika, where you just walked around without thinking about bug spray or the clothes you’re wearing. People still need to practice good mosquito-bite prevention when they’re living in South Florida or traveling there.”
The CDC has also offered an outline on the precautions needed in Miami-Dade County and other areas of the U.S. where Zika has circulated, such as Brownsville, Texas. These precautions are crucial for pregnant women, those trying to get pregnant and their mates. Expectant couples are advised to continue using condoms every time they have sex in various forms (whether vaginal, anal, and oral, says CDC) because the Zika virus can stay in the semen of an infected man for months.
Pregnant women are also advised to continue getting tested for Zika up to eight weeks after the travel ban has been lifted for a region- which would be until August 2017 for South Florida.
Dr. Curry said the precautions are needed, because even though Zika has “disappeared”, it could still be circulating. It is good to remember that 80 percent people who are infected with Zika don’t have symptoms at all.
Dr. Curry also said that if the virus is merely lurking below detectable levels, Zika cases could start cropping up again in any moment. In fact, according to a study last summer, Zika likely circulated in Florida for months before being detected by health officials.
Those who live in South Florida are going there this summer are advised to pack the DEET, cover clothes in permethrin and be on the lookout for skeeters.
Zika case may have also dropped across the Carribean and Latin America, but CDC still warns American pregnant women from traveling to places where Zika is circulating. If a spouse travels to one of such areas, the couple are advised to use condoms for at least six months. Couples trying to get pregnant are also advised against traveling in the said areas.