A letter to Atlanta area clergy from Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.,
commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health
Dear Faith Community Leader,
As the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and the State Health Officer, I am writing to share my concerns about Zika virus infection. I am asking you to help disseminate important information about protecting against mosquito bites and preventing the spread of Zika virus in Georgia.
We recognize that many of your members may participate in mission trips to places where there are outbreaks of Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued travel advisories for more than 40 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Pacific Islands, Mexico and U.S. territories including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, travelers to any destination with Zika outbreaks should protect themselves from mosquito bites.
As of this date, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in Georgia or anywhere in the United States, but cases have been reported in returning travelers. Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitoes, which can be found in Georgia. Sexual transmission of Zika has also been documented.
Pregnant women should not travel to areas where there is ongoing Zika virus transmission because of a link between Zika virus and serious birth defects. Studies have also linked Zika virus infection to cases of neurological disorders.
There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers should check CDC travel advisories for their destinations and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes:
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks
Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 (during travel and for three weeks after returning home)
Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents)
Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms or sleep under a mosquito net
Upon returning home from travel to Zika-affected countries, individuals should continue to use EPA-registered insect repellents for three weeks and follow precautions to prevent additional mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread Zika bite mostly during the daytime and tend to live around homes. They breed in containers so removing anything that holds water or dumping out standing water around the home after it rains will help reduce the number of these mosquitoes.
Additional information about Zika virus can be found at dph.georgia.gov/zika or cdc.gov/zika.