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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — With the looming possibility the Zika virus will spread through the United States – with South Florida at the forefront with the first locally acquired cases – prevention is key.

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The virus – which has been linked to birth defects in babies – can be spread through mosquitoes or sexual contact.

No vaccine exists to prevent it but health experts say there are ways to hinder the spread of the virus personally and in our community, according to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

  • Avoid mosquito bites – Use insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535. Don’t forget to reapply.
  • Treat your clothing & gear – Use permethrin on your items to keep away mosquitoes. Do not apply it directly to your skin.
  • Control Mosquitoes in your home – Use screens on windows and doors. Repair holes where mosquitoes might get in.
  • Control Mosquitoes outside – Get rid of standing water around your home including buckets, fountains, and potted plants among other things. That’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Plan for travel – If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, avoid areas with the Zika virus. Talk to your doctor about your travel plans if you must go. Once you get back, check with your doctor to find out if you need to be tested for Zika. Check the latest Zika travel notices.
  • Protect Yourself During Sex– You can get Zika from vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a male or female partner. Make sure to use protection.
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Many people infected with the virus may not have symptoms or in some cases, it could be mild. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain or a headache. They usually last for several days to a week. People very rarely die of Zika and most don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital.

If you think you have the Zika virus, a blood or urine test will confirm it.

You can also call the Florida Department of Health to get your own Zika prevention kit and repellant, if available in your area.

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Click here for more information on the Zika virus or here for more Zika-related stories.