Zika Prevention: A Quick Guide to What You Do to Prevent Mosquito Bites

The rise of the Zika virus has understandably increased fears of contracting illness from mosquito bites. “There is currently no vaccine or cure for Zika,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. This rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus that is believed to be responsible for thousands of birth defects. “The only effective weapon against the virus is preventing mosquito bites.”

Zika, which was originally discovered in the Zika Rainforest in Uganda in 1947, has spread worldwide since the first human infection was reported in 1952. The symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or reddening of the eyes, and generally last from a few days to a week. The illness is generally mild – in fact, many people may not even notice they have been infected – and normally does not require hospitalization and very, very rarely ends in death.

However, Zika can be catastrophic for the unborn. “Pregnant women infected with the virus stand an extremely high risk of the virus causing the fetus to develop a number of severe fetal brain defects, the most common being microcephaly,” says Dr. Mamelak.

Zika is carried by two species of mosquitoes, Aedes Albopictus and the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which are most active during the day. Preventing the infection hinges on preventing these mosquitoes from biting you.

Here are a few things you can do to safeguard yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Stay indoors when possible. Window screens will keep most mosquitoes out, or stay in air conditioned areas with closed windows.
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • “Outside your home, get rid or empty anything that can hold standing water, such as old tires, buckets, empty planters, and so forth,” says Dr. Mamelak. “Mosquito larvae breed in standing water.”
  • If you go camping, use mosquito netting to keep mosquitoes away from sleeping areas.
  • Use bug spray to kill mosquitoes inside your home. For serious indoor mosquito problems, use a fogger. The most effective sprays will contain Imidacloprid or β-Cyfluthrin, while the most effective foggers contain Tetramethrin or Cypermethrin.
  • Use insect repellant to keep mosquitoes away from you. The Centers for Disease Control recommends using insect repellants containing one or more of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Insect repellants containing DEET are considered some of the most effective. For extra protection, apply permethrin to your clothing. A powerful synthetic insecticide, permethrin can also protect against fleas, ticks and a number of other insect threats. A number of outdoor clothing brands sell clothing containing permethrin.

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Zika may be scary, but prevention need not be. Contact us for more information on what you can do to guard against mosquito bites.

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