Zika swoops into neighborhoods undetected using travelers, new research confirms

A series of papers published about the spread of Zika virus shows startling information that confirms what many people have suspected: Aedes mosquitoes spread the Zika virus in Florida at least 3 times before it was finally detected. Up to 40 people may have contributed to the Florida Zika outbreaks.

In areas such as Puerto Rico, the virus circulated about 5 months before it was detected. In the Caribbean, it was 9 months before Zika was detected.

Zika virus spreads primarily through the bite of a mosquito. Many of the cases in L.A. County are from people traveling to an active Zika transmission area, getting infected from a mosquito bite, and returning home.

So why does it matter to me?

If you travel, as research shows, you can bring back Zika or any other nasty viruses (such as dengue fever and chikungunya). Since we already have the mosquitoes that can transmit Zika here in L.A. County, it takes only one bite from them to pass on the virus to someone else. By traveling and ignoring mosquito bites, you can start an outbreak in your neighborhood.

What can I do, if I travel to an active Zika-transmission area, like the Caribbean, Mexico and Southeast Asia?
  • Insect repellent – pack it, buy it, use it. Look for one of any of the active ingredients that have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535.
  • Use bed netting – Stop the bite. Net up.
  • Are you back home? Keep up with preventing bites. You may be infected and not know!
  • Dump stagnant water around the home at least once a week. This is a life-long habit, just like wearing a seatbelt. Do this to ensure you don’t start an outbreak in your neighborhood, and to prevent any itchy mosquito bites.

Learn more:

Aedes mosquitoes in L.A. County cities – Are they in yours?

Study: Genomic epidemiology reveals multiple introductions of Zika virus into the United States

Study: Zika virus evolution and spread in the Americas

L.A. County Public Health page on Zika virus