Mosquitoes and their bites are not only annoying, but some can carry serious diseases. One in particular, the Zika virus, became a news story in 2015 and 2016. If you ever wondered what the Zika virus is and how to avoid getting it, here are some of the things you need to know.
According to Joan Ivaska, a senior director for Banner Health’s Infection Prevention, Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus similar to West Nile Virus.
“The Zika virus is transmitted through a mosquito bite and may cause mild symptoms such fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye,” Ivaska said. “Much like West Nile Virus, as many as 80 percent of infected individuals never know they have been infected.”
The reports that babies born to mothers infected with Zika have serious birth defects make Zika virus very troubling.
How can you get the Zika virus?Besides through an infected mosquito's bite, other ways you can get infected include through a blood transfusion, sexual contact with an infected person or coming in contact with an infected person’s blood. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine or treatment available for the Zika virus.
“Zika virus is not transmitted through casual contact,” Ivaska said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following methods to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in the U.S.:
- If infected with the Zika virus, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites for one week.
- Pregnant women should avoid travel to countries where mosquitoes are transmitting Zika virus. If a pregnant woman cannot postpone travel, she should talk with their health care provider before travelling and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
- Use mosquito repellents as directed on the bottle. You can use many insect repellents on children. However, avoid products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus in children under the age of 3 years.
- Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection.
- When using sunscreen and a repellent, make sure you apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing. Instead, treat your clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent.
- Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use air conditioning or make sure screens do not have holes so mosquitoes stay outside. If neither is available, use a mosquito net over your bed.
- Mosquitos breed in water. Empty any standing water in containers outside your home or hotel room.
To see countries that are affected, visit the CDC’s website for up-to-date information.