With the anticipation of back yard barbecues and afternoons at the lake comes the preparation for mosquito season. While stocking up on citronella candles and insect repellent every May is fairly routine, the prominence of Zika virus carrying mosquitoes in the news has given many people more cause for concern.
According a recent article scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there is now enough evidence to conclude that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects and has been linked to problems in infants, including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. Scientists are studying the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause. Common symptoms of Zika infection include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the CDC. Approximately 1 in 5 people infected with the virus shows symptoms. Severe complications from Zika infection that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.
Brazil experienced a significant outbreak of Zika virus since May 2015, primarily spread through mosquito bites. In recent months, Brazilian officials reported an increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly. As of May 2016, there have been 544 confirmed travel-associated cases in the U.S., reports the CDC.
When in areas with Zika and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, the CDC recommends taking the following steps:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- To protect your child from mosquito bites:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a 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 use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.