Americans are justly concerned about the spread of the Zika virus, prompting many to look for key Zika virus prevention tips. After all, it’s a pretty rare occurrence for the World Health Organization (WHO) to announce an international health emergency—but they did just that on Monday.
By now, you may have heard of the Zika virus, a viral epidemic sweeping its way throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and some Pacific Islands. Estimates say that as many as four million people could be infected by the end of the year, and already cases have been identified in Canada and the continental U.S. But, how can you protect yourself from the Zika virus?
Prevent Zika Virus by Evading Mosquito Bites
Zika is spread through mosquito bites, and although that might not be a huge threat in the U.S. during the winter months, the virus is present in many countries that Americans visit this time of year. On Monday, even Jamaica was added to the list of countries where the virus has been reported—and I was just there in December!
Because there is no vaccine against Zika, the only course of action against it is prevention—which is another way of saying that you have to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos. If you’re in or are travelling to an area affected by Zika, here are the precautions you should take.
Key Ways to Protect Yourself From the Zika Virus
1. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants (especially during the day, when most Zika-carrying mosquitoes will bite)
2. Stay in air-conditioned rooms or places that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out
3. Remove sources of standing water—they are mosquito breeding grounds
4. Avoid the use of scented skin products
5. Sleep under a mosquito bed net if overseas, outdoors, or in a room without screened doors and windows
6. Use EPA-registered insect repellents on your clothes (these products are proven most effective, so when dealing with a mosquito-borne virus, it’s safer to use them than any alternative bug sprays)
7. When sitting outdoors, up your protection with natural mosquito-repelling citronella candles (still wear that EPA-registered repellent though!)
8. If indoors with an open window that has no screen or outdoors on an open-air porch, turn on a fan
Zika Virus Symptoms to Look Out For
Keep in mind that only one in five people experience symptoms of Zika once they contract it. Common symptoms for anyone affected include a fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain, and mild headaches, which can last for several days to a week. Not something you want to experience, especially if you’re a senior. However, for most people, this disease might not be a real danger; the real at-risk groups are pregnant women and those who want to get pregnant. Zika seems to be connected to a condition called microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with small heads and brain damage.
Zika Virus Prevention: Travel Advisories
Right now, the most affected area appears to be Brazil. American specialists are saying an outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely because of effective mosquito control programs. And although no official travel warnings have been released, it is advised you postpone travel plans if you’re planning on visiting one of the following countries:
Cape Verde, Barbados, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, U.S. Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, American Samoa, Samoa, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, or Venezuela.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Zika Travel Information,” CDC web site, last updated February 1, 2016; http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information, last accessed February 2, 2016.
“Zika Virus Prevention,” CDC web site, last updated February 1, 2016; http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/, last accessed February 2, 2016.