Temperatures are quickly rising and summer weather is almost here, bringing with it mosquito season. This year, it is important that we all learn about and take necessary precautions against Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness – prevention is the key to combating the threat of Zika.
Although Zika virus illness is usually mild, lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito, and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms there is a direct link between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and birth defects. Sexual transmission has also been documented. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus.
Zika virus protection starts with the individual. There are many simple actions people can take to minimize the risk of Zika virus disease to themselves and their communities:
- The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitos is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. You can do this by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent and staying in places with air-conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside.
- Buy insect repellent that is EPA registered and that contains one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemoneucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.
- When applying mosquito repellent, follow the directions carefully and know how often to reapply.
- Check the screens on your doors and windows for holes or areas of fraying. Patch them or replace them to make sure mosquitos are kept out.
- Get rid of standing water in gutters, birdbaths, flower pots and other receptacles where mosquitoes lay their eggs. “Tip and Toss” any standing water.
- Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to avoid travel to areas of the world with active Zika virus transmission if they can; up-to-date travel advisory information can be found on the CDC website.
- It’s important that travelers returning to the U.S. from affected areas of the world take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not pass Zika virus to mosquitos that could spread the virus to other people.
- Stay up to date on ways to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus disease.
The continental U.S. has reported no local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases, but there have been 503 travel-associated cases. With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. These imported cases could result in local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States. It is unknown whether the mosquito-borne disease will start to develop in the United States this year. But it is important to follow prevention measures either way.