Fear of the Zika virus is growing as we speak. People are starting to understand why this seemingly harmless virus can devastate your health. As you know, there are still no vaccines against Zika. The only proper way to keep Zika away is to safeguard your home against the virus. Protection is through prevention.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that spreads quickly. It is responsible for birth defects. The most common and most effective way to ward off this disease is to keep your living space mosquito-free. The Aedes albopictus and the Aedes aegypti should be eliminated. Mosquito bites are the easiest method of Zika transmission. As a responsible homeowner or family member, always follow the necessary mosquito bite prevention guidelines.
Guidelines in Preventing Mosquito Bites
Here are some of the necessary steps in keeping mosquito bites away:
1.Choose the right mosquito repellent. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends repellents that have DEET, IR 3535, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus as the active ingredient. The most standard ingredient here is DEET. According to the Director of the Mosquito Control Division of Harris County Public health and Environmental Services in Houston, Mustapha Debboun, PhD, every repellent in the market are being tested for their effectiveness—if they can beat DEET. In 1957, DEET was released into the market and was put on the shelves. Earlier, there were safety concerns about this compound. Some thought it could be linked to some neurological problems. Studies were performed and the scientists found out that DEET does not have any negative side effects at all.
Zika has been suspected to be behind recent microcephaly cases in the thousands. This condition is manifested by an abnormally large head. You have to understand that skipping the use of repellents puts you at greater risk. The CDC does not encourage the use of unregistered mosquito repellents such as peppermint oil, citronella oil, cedar oil, and geranium oil.
2.Apply the repellent correctly. Remember to apply the mosquito repellent after applying your sunscreen. Never spray your repellent under your clothes. If you do this, the repellent is just going to accumulate on your clothes and not take effect. You should also avoid spraying the repellent on wounds such as cuts and abrasions. Spray repellent on your ankles and feet. The mosquito that transmits the Zika virus is the Aedes species. It is a species that is attracted to feet.
If you have children, spray the repellent on your hands first before you rub it onto his or her delicate skin. Avoid applying the repellent on the child’s mouth or eyes. Spray repellents should be used sparingly around the ears. Only use a repellent that has up to 30% DEET. Avoid using oil of eucalyptus on children less than three years old. All repellents should not be used on infants younger than two months old. Just place mosquito netting over infants.
3.Use your clothes to repel mosquitoes. Wear protective clothing such as long pants and long sleeved shirts. You can be more protected with permethrin treated clothes. Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has declared that permethrin is safe and effective on children and women. Aedes species of mosquitoes are attracted to your feet, so make sure you swear socks and closed shoes. Take note that mosquitoes can bite right through spandex. Loose clothes protect you better. Wear sunglasses and a hat protect your head.
4.Do your exercises indoors. It is better to sweat indoors. Mosquitoes are easily attracted to heat and carbon dioxide. You are an easy target when you’re outside because you emit these substances naturally in high amounts whenever you exert your body during exercise.
5.Prepare your house. Most American homes are safe from Zika for now because the vector mosquitoes either die off or hibernate during winter. When there is a rise in temperature of 50 to 60 degrees F, the carrier mosquitoes reappear. By then, they have the opportunity to bite and spread the Zika virus again. The Aedes species are day biting mosquitoes. They also fly into houses to seek shade. They reproduce and live very close to humans.
Just a tablespoon of water is enough to help mosquitoes breed. They can produce up to 300 baby mosquitoes. They can even use the bottom of a glass inside the bathroom to breed as well. A film of water by the sink is also enough. Stagnant water should be eliminated from your home. They are in accumulating trash, flowerpots, and bottles in around your home. If you have a pool, you do not have to drain it. You just have to keep it clean. Chlorine deters mosquitoes and makes your pool safe for regular swimming.
6.Be smart when you travel. Avoid Zika affected areas when you travel. Check the CDC’s list of territories and countries affected by Zika. If you need to travel to any of these areas, you should sleep under mosquito nets, use mosquito repellents, and stay in air-conditioned places. If you are pregnant, please cancel your trip or talk to your attending physician. If your trip is unavoidable, check certain options with the airline you selected. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines allow qualified passengers to cancel their flights without any cancellation fees at all.
Protecting Yourself as a Traveler
The WHO (World Health Organization) believes that the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue, are the same mosquitoes that spread Zika. These mosquitoes will make it to the Western hemisphere eventually. Canada and Chile are the only ones they will not be able to stand because of the colder climate and high elevation. These two factors prevent mosquitoes from breeding effectively.
Though mosquitoes are the most effective modes of transmission, Zika can also be transmitted by other means. Zika can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse. This was first reported in Dallas, Texas and the CDC confirmed it.
The CDC has just released a travel warning recently, telling pregnant women that they should cancel all unnecessary travel to Miami-Dade, Florida. There were spike cases in this area. This was the first time the CDC had given warning against any means of travel within the continental US.
Below are some pointers for travelers:
- Read the updated information uploaded in the CDC website before you consider traveling.
- Avoid traveling to the areas affected by Zika if you are pregnant or already are. If you already manifest symptoms, you should consult your doctor about being tested for Zika virus. You may be told to delay your pregnancy. Read CDC’s updated recommendations for pregnant women.
- Women and men can both transmit Zika through sexual intercourse, even if they do not manifest symptoms at all. It is recommended for both genders to use dental dams and condoms when they have sex.
- Apply your sunscreen first before you apply mosquito repellent.
- Bring the right type of mosquito repellent. DEET based (at least 30%) mosquito repellents are the most effective ones to use. Even so, Consumer Reports recommend that people should use mild, plant-based repellents, mosquito netting, and protective clothing.
- Always wear long sleeved shirts, closed shoes, and long pants.
- Treat your gear and clothes with permethrin or avail of permethrin treated items.
- Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
- Close your windows and doors in a Zika affected area.
- Use mosquito netting when you sleep.
- Be mindful of mosquito bites and sexual partners in Zika affected areas.
- Stay away from areas where mosquitoes breed such as bodies of accumulated standing water.
Spraying Against Zika
In the US mainland, there are still no Zika mosquitoes detected. Usually, the victims acquired the virus somewhere else or have been infected through sexual transmission. According to the Executive of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Scott Black, spraying is the usual solution in many countries. Yet according to reports after 150 years of mosquito control, spraying does not really work well. The insecticide sprays also affect the pollinators and other insects that serve as food for wildlife, fish, or birds.
Black comments that the major reason as to why Florida’s endangered Miami Blue butterflies and Schaus swallowtail are declining. Karen Oberhauser, a University of Minnesota biologist found that the monarch butterfly caterpillars that feed on milkweed (sprayed for mosquito prevention) have a lower survival. This is true, even if they feed on leaves collected after three weeks of spraying. Black said that the best way to control mosquitoes is to use products that are the least harmful to humans and wildlife. The non-spray method involves wearing protective clothing, using repellents, using screens or nets, and eliminating mosquito breeding areas. Protective clothing discourages mosquitoes from biting you. Repellents ward of mosquitoes. Screens and nets serve as barriers against any mosquito. Getting rid of the breeding areas prevents mosquitoes from breeding in your living space.
Spraying actually worsens the problem of mosquitoes. If you spray them constantly, they develop that immunity to the insecticide you use. The chemicals also kill off the natural enemies of the pesky mosquitoes. It is better to prevent or just surround your area with plants that ward off mosquitoes naturally.
Natural Defense against Zika Mosquitoes
If you love the outdoors and even have a garden to tend, you should follow these reminders in your vigilant fight against mosquitoes:
- Be aware of your living area. Patrolling your property should be a habit. In doing so, locate the mosquito breeding sites in and around your home. Aedes mosquitoes love to lay their eggs in stagnant water (water in bottle caps, gutters, toys, saucers, and drain pipes).
- Remove the source of mosquitoes. The moment you see the breeding spots, start removing the stagnant water. If you cannot remove the stagnant water, add Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt (natural bacterium in the soil) into it. This strain of bacteria kills mosquito larvae, biting black flies, and even fungus gnats. It is harmless to wildlife and humans so do not worry about getting some soil on your skin. You can get this bacterium easily from hardware or garden stores.
- Focus of your water features. If you have a birdbath, make sure you constantly remove the water every few days. Doing so dumps out the larvae and the eggs. Replacing the water regularly also provides healthy water for the birds all the time. For your pond, it is helpful to install a fountain or a pump. This oxygenates the water and keeps the water moving. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant or still water. Treat the pond water with mosquito granules or dunks to eliminate any larvae or eggs.
- Care for the natural mosquito predators. Many predators like dragonflies, frogs, and lizards love to eat the adult mosquitoes and their larvae. Native plants support these predators, making your property free of mosquitoes.
- Shield yourself and your household. Repellents, protective clothing, and screens are all effective protection against mosquitoes.
- Tell people. The fight against mosquitoes needs the effort of everyone in your neighborhood. It is not enough that you alone keep mosquitoes away. You need to spread the word, so that all of you can have a worry-free and mosquito-free living space.
What Volunteers are Doing
There is hope yet for areas that have large mosquito populations. These areas have people at high risk of getting the Zika virus. To help fight the Zika mosquito war, volunteers are taking things seriously by cleaning up roadside trash. It is a common problem for many areas. Discarded cups, bottles, cans, and boxes all help increase the number of mosquitoes. To reduce their numbers, the volunteer litter pickers are stripping roadsides of these irritating items. Beautification of the communities is the first line of defense against the Zika mosquitoes in Brazoria and the Bay Area and Galveston.
The Bay area is said to be the messiest area. This makes it the hot spot for mosquito breeding. Many items such as abandoned tires are common in this area, so it is only expected that the Zika is transmitted here. To help the Bay area, volunteers make such an effort in picking up discarded items that collect water. Motivated by these volunteers, adults in community service court ordered programs also help.
Safeguarding your home and property from Zika requires dedication in warding off the mosquito carriers, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Zika is a threat, but with dedicated combined efforts, it can be eradicated.