The recent flooding in Houston, TX is a good reminder of the importance of protecting yourself and your family from mosquitos that may be carrying the Zika Virus as the weather becomes hotter and more humid.
A great place to start is to eliminate standing water, mosquitos’ preferred breeding ground, inside and outside your home. It is important to dump standing water as soon as possible, so be vigilant about emptying and/or removing the saucers under your flower pots, and make sure there is no standing water around your grill or patio furniture. Inside your home, as little as a tablespoon of water is enough to produce hundreds of mosquitos, so drain sinks promptly in the kitchen and bathroom, and don’t leave water in the bottom of drinking glasses, or even the cup in your bathroom or the toothbrush holder.
The symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain, and eye redness. However, many people who are infected do not experience symptoms.
The virus can easily be spread. If an infected person is bitten by an Aedes mosquito, the variety that can transmit the virus, it will spread. Zika can also be transmitted sexually, so it is recommended to use condoms for all sexual activity. It can be transmitted sexually between a man and a woman, or between two men.
The virus is especially dangerous to pregnant women because there have been thousands of cases of infants born with microcephaly (infants born with an abnormally small head and abnormal brain development) and other birth defects attributed to the Zika Virus.
There have been 31 cases of Zika in Texas, and 14 cases in Houston, TX. In our community, all 14 individuals were infected outside the United States. There have been 700 cases in the US; 70 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus.
A Houston, TX pregnant woman has tested positive for Zika. Once a person has been infected, they are immune to the Zika virus.
Stay in air conditioned spaces when possible, and wear loose fitting long pants and long sleeved shirts. Wear a hat when you are outside, and wear full coverage shoes and socks to protect your feet and ankles, because the variety of mosquitos that carry Zika are especially drawn to feet. Also, exercised indoors because mosquitos are also drawn to heat and carbon dioxide, which your body creates more of when you sweat.
Prevent mosquito bites by applying insect repellent that contains DEET to your exposed skin, use bug spray after applying sunscreen, and reapply as directed. To protect children, spray bug spray that contains 30% or less DEET on your hands and then rub onto the child’s skin. Don’t apply around the child’s mouth and eyes, and apply minimally to ears. Don’t use the bug spray on infants under 2 months old, instead drape and secure mosquito netting over their infant carrier.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains updated information on their website including the countries where there are high incidences of the Zika Virus. If you are traveling to one of these areas, stay in air-conditioned areas, use mosquito netting if recommended by the hotel where you are staying, and make sure to wear protective clothing, and use mosquito repellent containing DEET. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor and consider rescheduling your trip.