Airport, health officials work to prevent spreading of Zika virus

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Airport and health officials in Atlanta are working together to prevent the spreading of the Zika virus.

Wednesday, officials with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) held a news conference to update travelers on what they can do to stop the virus from spreading.

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"At this point in the United States, all of the cases of Zika have been associated with travel," said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of Georgia's DPH.

Researchers fear Zika causes microcephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby's head is too small, as well as other threats to the children of pregnant women infected with it.

According to Fitzgerald, there have been more than 300 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States.  Georgia has had 11 confirmed cases, though none of those were in pregnant women.

Shop owners inside the airport have started to carry EPA-registered insect repellents that contain the recommended 20-30 percent of DEET. Health officials say that concentration proves most effective in repelling mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus.


Health officials encourage people who travel to Zika-infected areas to protect themselves from bites by wearing long sleeves and pants and using repellent.

They ask travelers who return to the U.S. to continue to take precautions against mosquitoes for at least three weeks.

"That's important because 80 percent of people who have the Zika virus will not even know that they have it," explained Dr. Fitzgerald.  "So what that means, is you can go on Spring Break and come back, have the virus and expose a family member or someone in your neighborhood or someone in your community to the Zika virus."


Fitzgerald also encouraged men whose partners are pregnant to practice protected sex for the duration of the pregnancy because Zika can stay in semen for months.

Health officials urge people to reduce their risk of contact with mosquitoes by using the "tip and toss" method--dump out any standing water that may be around your home so that mosquitoes cannot use it for breeding.