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5 Ways to Avoid Contracting the Zika Virus

Preventing birth defects means doing everything you can to avoid contracting Zika virus.

While there is no vaccine or cure for Zika virus, there are precautions you can take to prevent from getting it. Pregnant women and women who might become pregnant should be extra careful, as this virus can cause severe birth defects in babies.

Zika virus is on the rise in the U.S., and is problematic because it causes birth defects when pregnant women are infected. Such defects may include microencephaly (smaller head and brain size) brain defects, developmental problems, and vision and hearing problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there may also be link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause paralysis. Therefore, knowing ways to avoid Zika virus is a must.

1. Use Insect Repellent

To help prevent Zika transmission from mosquito bites, use insect repellent when you’re outside. The CDC suggests using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent to prevent Zika. These include repellents with the following active ingredients: DEET, IR3535, picaridin, icaridin, KBR 3023, bayrepel, para-menthane-diol (PMD), and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). Examples of brand names containing EPA-registered ingredients include:

  • Off
  • Ultrathon
  • Sawyer
  • Cutter, and Cutter Advanced
  • Repel
  • Skin So Soft Bug Guard, and Skin So Soft Bug Guard Expedition
  • SkinSmart

2. Cover Arms and Legs

Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when you’re outside is another way to prevent bites from Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Better yet, try insect-repellent clothing, or treat your own clothes with insect repellent clothing spray. Many of these sprays will last up to six washings or more. Be sure to spray areas of your skin not covered by clothing with EPA-registered insect repellent.

3. Travel Smart

Traveling smart means you may want to avoid Zika-infested areas when planning your vacation – especially if you’re pregnant or could become pregnant. While you’re at risk of contracting Zika anywhere, several locations have had more Zika cases — and were issued travel warnings by the CDC:

  • Mexico
  • Cape Verde
  • The Caribbean
  • South America
  • The Pacific Islands
  • Central America
  • United States (South Florida)

4. Use Protection During Sex

Zika virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse, so protection during sex is a must. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. To help prevent Zika transmission during sexual intercourse, abstain from sex, use condoms, or use dental dams during oral sex.

5. Avoid Contact with Blood

Another way Zika is spread is by contact with the blood of an infected person. The CDC notes that multiple cases of Zika from blood transfusions have been confirmed in Brazil. To reduce your risk of infection, always use latex or other medical gloves when in contact with blood. If you require a blood transfusion, make sure the blood has been tested for Zika.

[Image via Getty]

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