Perhaps you’ve heard of Zika, perhaps not. It is a blood born virus generally spread by mosquitos that has been historically present in equatorial Africa and Asia. In 2014, it spread into South America and has caused an epidemic in Brazil. Last October a rise in microcephaly– a birth defect involving a small head and neurologic deficits– was linked to women who were infected with the virus while pregnant in Brazil. The governments in Brazil and several other South American countries are currently encouraging their populations to not get pregnant. That’s how bad the epidemic there is. The scary thing is that this virus is spread by mosquitos (and there’s also a case of possible human-to-human sexual transmission). Not just any mosquitos, but 2 different skeeters that live in the Southern US too.
So far there have been no native transmissions to folk living in the US, but there have been 12 people infected when traveling to South America. Right now, WHO is recommending that pregnant women not travel into South America, especially the countries below. Which may cause difficulties for Brazil as it prepares to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. There is currently no vaccine or treatment that will kill the virus. Another scary thing is that 80% of those infected won’t know they are infected, because they won’t have symptoms. Here’s a nice infographic of the symptoms… if the infected person even has any symptoms.
Since there’s no cure for this disease, prevention is key. So, 1) don’t travel to those countries if you plan on becoming pregnant, 2) control mosquitos in your area. Fortunately since its the middle of winter, most places don’t have to worry about the mosquitos. (Except for me, since we rarely (once every 5-10 years?) get a hard freeze.) But here’s how you can manage the mosquito population in your neighborhood.
It’s not mentioned there, but if you must be outside for long periods of time around your home (like say a barbeque!) those little coils and tiki torches can do wonders, although you do need more of them than you’d think and may smoke yourself out in the process. There are chemicals you can spray on the lawn to keep them away too. Some of them are made up of “natural” chemicals, if you have little ones that put everything in their mouths. Or if you’re super into natural things, there are several plants you can keep around your property to ward mosquitos off the areas you tend to congregate with friends and family. I’ve tried to keep some of them around my place, but unfortunately, I have what I call a brown thumb– I’m an expert plant killer.
Anyway, as spring approaches, keep those 5 Defense D’s in mind– avoid being out Dusk and Dawn, wear personal repellent with Deet, Dress in light colors with as much cloth on them as possible, and Drain any standing water.
2/2/16 UPDATE!: CDC confirmed today a case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in Dallas County, Texas.