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DHSS Press Release

Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: June 16, 2017


DOVER (June 16, 2017) - The Division of Public Health (DPH) continues to remind Delawareans to protect themselves from the Zika virus with support from a statewide advertising campaign launched last month. The campaign reminds travelers, particularly pregnant women, to take steps to prevent Zika.

Zika has been found in several popular travel locations. Delaware's 17 confirmed Zika cases were all caused by mosquito bites while traveling abroad, however, there are warmer climates in the continental United States with local Zika transmission. Anyone planning a trip over the summer should educate themselves on Zika's dangers and how to prevent the disease before setting off for your vacation destination.

"Through this campaign, we are striving to remind women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, that Zika is still a serious disease that should not be taken lightly," said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. "Pregnant women and their partners should avoid travel to areas where Zika is found and everyone should protect themselves from mosquito bites." Dr. Rattay encouraged everyone to take precautions such as using EPA-registered insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using barrier methods such as condoms or dental dams when engaging in sexual activity with someone who could be infected with Zika.

The Zika outreach campaign includes radio, billboard, transit, digital and pre-show movie theater advertising. DPH has also enlisted strategies to reach women in the Hispanic community who may be more likely to travel to areas affected by the Zika virus.

Zika is a disease caused by a virus primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes and can also be passed via sexual transmission. The most common symptoms of Zika are rash, fever, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Some people who become infected with Zika do not experience any symptoms.

The largest health impact of the Zika virus appears to be on infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby's head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a number of resources to inform the public on the impacts of Zika, including the CDC's text messaging service that will alert travelers of Zika updates for their destinations. To receive text messages about Zika for your destination, text PLAN to 855-255-5606 to subscribe.

"Currently, there is no known treatment for, and no vaccine against, Zika," said DPH Medical Director Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh. "Prevention is the only protection. Everyone should take proper precautions when traveling to areas where Zika is spreading, as they can get infected with the virus via mosquito bites or sex while away and spread it through sexual transmission themselves both when traveling and when they return home."

Mosquito bite avoidance strategies include:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. When feasible, stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for reapplication times. Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside. Keep in mind that the mosquitos that spread Zika bite actively both during the day and the night.

If you have a baby or child:
Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age. Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or cover the crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting. Do not apply insect repellent onto a child's hands, eyes, mouth, or on cut or irritated skin. Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to the child's face.

Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last. If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully. Do NOT apply permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.

Women who have had possible exposure to Zika through travel or sexual contact, regardless of whether or not they exhibited symptoms or are trying to conceive, should wait at least eight weeks before having unprotected sex. Men who may have been exposed to the virus should wait at least six months before having unprotected sex, regardless of whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms or are planning to conceive. Preventing Zika transmission to a woman who may, or is planning to, conceive in the next few months is particularly important, given Zika's link to serious and even fatal birth defects.

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant can find more information on Zika at:

DPH recommends the following resources for the latest on Zika and microcephaly:

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.