Last year, we witnessed Miami as ground zero for the Zika virus which can easily be spread by mosquitos and during sex. We also know that the Zika virus can cause complications during pregnancy and fetal development. Miami’s tropical climate and international tourism is prime for the virus to be easily transmitted. According to the Miami Herald, there have been over 1,500 local and travel-related cases to date of the Zika virus in Florida alone.
As a trusted health care provider, Planned Parenthood is committed to providing high-quality information, education, and resources on reproductive health including contraception and sex education. Many of our volunteers share these same values which is why they took action with us by joining our Zika education volunteer canvass in July. Our volunteers were eager to be trained by Planned Parenthood staff and start knocking on doors to educate, empower, and equip Miami residents.
In the sweltering summer heat and amidst summer rain showers, our volunteer team dedicated their Saturdays going door-to-door in South Dade communities to inform residents on ways they can prevent themselves from contracting Zika. While sporting their pink shirts and hats, for two months our volunteer team engaged with members of the community on the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest information on Zika. One volunteer, Joyce Lara, expressed that “Everyone we spoke to was nice and most were very receptive and wanted to know more information about the Zika virus. Many in the community were not aware that Zika is still a threat.”
Joyce also highlighted one particular experience which stood out to her “A community member we met had Zika. Some county water department employees were unaware that Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact.” Interactions like these are why Planned Parenthood is committed to sex education.
Now more than ever it is important for us to continue talking about the threat of Zika. Just this past week Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma which left behind standing water in many of our yards --- this and the September heat is the perfect recipe for mosquitos to develop and transmit the Zika virus. We know that those most impacted in our community by Hurricane Irma and those that are most vulnerable to the Zika virus are low-income women who may not have access to reproductive healthcare or Zika information. After the storm, Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida immediately mobilized to pass out Zika education information sheets at emergency centers and ordered mosquito dunks and insect repellent to distribute to the community.
As our canvass comes to a close and as we recover from Hurricane Irma, we encourage residents throughout Florida who are spending time outside to repair damage to avoid mosquito bites while also emptying out any standing water around their home. In the words of our dedicated volunteer, Joyce, here are some important tips: “Drain and cover any standing water, use larvicide dunks for large bodies of water, wear mosquito repellent, and use some type of barrier method during sexual activity if you have been to an area where Zika is active or are showing symptoms of the Zika virus.”
Zika kits are available at our Kendall health center in Miami for pregnant patients carrying to term/undecided and/or trying to get pregnant.
Zika information sheets are available at all Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida health centers.
For more information about Zika prevention and pregnancy, click here.
If you are pregnant and would like to be tested, contact your local health department for more information.