Should you be worried about Zika this summer?
Summer is officially here, but with the sun and fun comes the return of some very unwelcome guests: Zika-carrying mosquitoes. And officials are saying they’re more widespread in the U.S. than expected.
A new study indicates that the presence of Zika-carrying mosquitoes has been documented from all states in the southern tier of the U.S., with some confirmed as far north as Chicago. This represents a 21 percent increase in the number of U.S. counties with the infected mosquitoes.
Zika is a virus that is transmitted primarily by mosquito bites that, among other things, can cause serious birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected. Most of the activity from Zika-carrying mosquitoes was initially confined to areas around the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America. But the mosquitoes began to move northward, to the U.S., with outbreaks reported in Florida and southern Texas.
Researchers stress that the documented presence of the mosquito in a particular county does not necessarily mean they are abundant or present throughout that county. However, they write that their findings “highlight the need for continued and improved mosquito surveillance.”
Wherever you find yourself this summer, you should take care to protect yourself from mosquito bites, says Mark Lareau, an Advocate Nurse and emergency department manager at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill.
Lareau recommends using EPA-approved insect repellents when spending time outdoors. The repellent should contain effective active ingredients, such as DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE).
“EPA-approved repellents are safe for even pregnant or nursing mothers to use,” he adds.
Lareau also advises wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when mosquitoes are prevalent, and to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the area around your home is free from standing water or other conditions that attract the insects.
“Keep lawns and bushes trimmed to keep mosquitoes down as well,” he added.
If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, Lareau cautions against traveling to areas where there is a high risk for contracting Zika.
“Check the Center for Disease Control’s web site to locate the areas with the highest Zika risks,” he advises.
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