So much rain, so many mosquitoes. They may not be swarming around us yet, but the bug experts say they will be soon. We’re used to swatting away the little buggers every summer, but this summer, they pose an additional risk: Zika.
The virus that was first discovered in Africa in 1947 is now linked to more than 5,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone. Microcephaly causes a smaller head size in unborn babies and can cause seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, and vision problems, among other conditions. Scientists believe a mother infected with Zika can pass the virus to her fetus causing this condition, but they don’t know at what stage in her pregnancy the child is affected.
Dallas saw the first sexually transmitted case in the U.S., and the virus can also be transferred through blood and other bodily fluids. On May 31, a mother from Honduras gave birth to a baby girl with microcephaly in New Jersey. The first baby born in the United States with microcephaly linked to Zika was in January when a woman gave birth in Hawaii after living in Brazil and contracting the virus last year.
While the recent outburst of Zika cases originated in South and Central American countries, the mosquito that can carry the virus is found in more than 30 U.S. states including Texas, and experts think it’s only matter of time before mosquitoes carrying Zika bite and affect North Texans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the World Health Organization, warn the greatest threat is to pregnant women, and have been urging them not to travel to Zika-infested areas, but what do we do when the mosquitoes get here?
Whether you’re staying in North Texas or going on vacation to another warm destination this summer, March of Dimes® and CDC recommend:
- Use EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions: those with DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, which are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Don't put bug spray or lotion on your skin under clothes. If you use sunscreen, put it on first before bug spray or lotion.
- If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.
- Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks. Treat clothes, shoes and other gear with a bug spray called permethrin or wear permethrin-treated clothes if you’re spending time hiking, camping or doing other outdoor activities. Don’t spray permethrin products directly on your skin. If you work outside, talk to your boss to see if you can work inside. If you do have to work outside, make sure your clothes cover and protect your skin.
- Stay in places that have air conditioning or screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Make sure screens on doors and windows don’t have holes in them.
- Remove still water from inside and outside your home or workplace. Check things like flowerpots, buckets, animal water bowls and children’s pools. Scrub them clean and turn them over or cover them so that they don't collect water. Mosquitoes can lay eggs inside or outside in very small amounts of water, like the size of a bottle cap. Use water treatment tabs that kill young mosquitoes in standing water. The tabs won't harm you or your pets, but don't use them in drinking water.
One popular travel destination this summer is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, home to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Many health experts have urged the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games because of the high risk of Zika infection, and several U.S. athletes and journalists have said they refuse to attend for the same reason. After mounting international pressure, Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization said it will now 'examine the risks of holding the Olympic Summer Games as currently scheduled'.
There are still many questions about the virus, will it arrive in North Texas and when, and other preventative measures. Join us on Tuesday, June 14 from 6-8 p.m. inside the J. Randall Canedy Community Room at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center to hear from medical experts and how Tarrant County is preparing for mosquito season. Click here to register for the free event.
Methodist Health System wants to be your go-to resource for all things Zika. That’s why we created this website with pertinent information to keep you and your family safe.
Calvert Collins-Bratton spent ten years on TV as a broadcast journalist in Columbia, Missouri, Omaha, Las Vegas, and Dallas-Fort Worth. She recently joined Methodist Health System as the Public Relations Manager. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri and enjoys traveling, walking, watching football (especially her Mizzou Tigers) and spending time with her husband and toddler daughter, Vivienne.