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Dr. Friall weighs in on Zika

"Zika seems closer to home, expectant mothers say"
by: Amanda Claire Curcio
The Tallahassee Democrat
August 3, 2016
Miami is “just too close” to not worry about Zika, said Rachel Scharlepp, an expectant mother who lives in Tallahassee.

During the early months of her pregnancy, the 33 year-old spent time enjoying the outdoors. She ventured to central Florida to hike and camp in the Ocala National Forest.

Known cases of the mosquito-borne virus were only travel-related then.

But on Monday, federal officials reported that 14 people — all bitten by local mosquitoes — tested positive for the virus or an antibody in Wynwood, a neighborhood north of downtown Miami. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented travel warning and advised all pregnant women in the U.S. to be screened for Zika.

Now, Scharlepp said she has “a lot of questions.” And fears. She regularly reads Zika updates released by the CDC and media outlets. Scientists have linked Zika to severe brain defects, including microcephaly, and developmental delays following birth.

But more seems unknown than known about the virus.

“The only thing we are being told is to wear bug spray,” said 27 year-old Amanda Blackwood, who is pregnant with her second child. “You feel kind of helpless. Like there’s nothing else you can really do to help yourself. It’s been nerve-racking.”

Christina Nonni, 32, another expectant mother in Tallahassee, also raised concerns about increasing community involvement in Zika prevention.

"I wish more people took those precautions," Nonni said. "It would help everyone else around us."

Local doctors and health agencies have increased efforts to raise awareness about Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses.

The Leon County Health Department website, leon.floridahealth.gov, releases daily updates, including a confirmed Zika case count by county. The department reported the state has the capacity to test 6,609 people for the virus and 2,059 for antibodies. So far, no cases have been reported in North Florida.

Andrea Friall, an OB-GYN at North Florida Women’s Care, said precautions still need to be taken for those in the area.

“We are around a lot of water,” Friall said. “I would not take that for granted… This is evolving as we speak. We need to be diligent and continue to check information.”

Friall, who also chairs a section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommends both men and women follow guidelines for Zika prevention. More information can be found online, at www.cdc.gov.

Openly discuss illness symptoms with your doctor at every prenatal visit. Certain answers about your health will help doctors appropriately screen you for Zika and determine if further testing is needed. The health department conducts Zika testing upon referral. 

Plan travel carefully and research areas that may have active Zika transmissions. Geographic information is available on the CDC website. 

Wear long-sleeve clothing when outside. 

Avoid staying outside for prolonged periods. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue fever and chikungunya, is more likely to bite during the day.   

Install screens on windows and doors. 

Apply repellant. Wear DEET and then wash it off before going to bed. 

Treat certain items, such as boots, pants, socks and tents, with permethrin. 

Dump out free-standing water, often collected in flower pots, birdbaths, tires and buckets.   

Women should wait at least eight weeks after Zika symptoms first appear before trying to get pregnant. Men should wait at least six months. 

Pregnant women who test positive should register with the CDC. Health care providers will more closely monitor the pregnancy, based upon CDC recommendations, like additional ultrasounds to check fetal development. Microcephaly, for instance, can be seen as early as the 18th week, but tends to be detected in the late second trimester or third trimester.

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