With temperatures that have fluctuated all winter, spring seems to have finally arrived but with it come the bugs that are associated with warmer weather, including mosquitos. These bugs aren’t just backyard pests whose bites leave itchy welts. They also carry diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and yellow fever but now Zika is making headlines.
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted to people by an infected Aedes species mosquito, a species that DC Mosquito Squad reports is an unusually resilient and opportunistic species that is very difficult to eradicate.
CDC’s Zika virus disease in the United States provides constant updates about confirmed cases and information on the numbers of locally transmitted cases versus those associated with travel.
In February 2016, 35 cases of Zika contracted through travel (imported cases) were confirmed in the United States and this number has increased to 358 as of April 13, 2016. So far there have been no confirmed cases of Zika being contracted by infected mosquitos in local areas but with the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States increasing, we expect to see an increase in the local spread of the virus.
With warmer temperatures upon us and families spending more time outside, here’s what you need to know about Zika virus, the symptoms, and how to protect your family.
About Zika Virus
While relatively new to us thanks to recent news coverage, Zika is a virus that was first discovered in 1947. It is named after the Zika forest in Uganda where the first human cases of Zika were detected in 1952. Since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases were likely to have occurred and were not reported.
Zika has been highlighted recently because in May, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Before 2013 Zika only affected a small population but it’s thought that Zika virus will continue to spread because local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories. For more information, read DC Mosquito’s Squad’s Why the Zika Epidemic is Happening Now.
How Zika Virus is Transmitted
According to the CDC, Zika is primarily transmitted to people by an infected Aedes species mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses which tend to be aggressive daytime biters who also bite at night. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bite. They prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people.
Symptoms of Zika Virus
One bite from an infected mosquito can cause symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, or headache and last for a week. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in many locations but because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, tend to be mild, and those affected don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, many don’t realize they’ve been infected.
In addition to Zika being transmitted through infected mosquitos, it can also spread from mother to child, sexual contact, and through blood transfusion. More details about transmission and risks can be found on the CDC’s Zika virus Transmission & Risks page.
The CDC reports that Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but can be found longer in some people. Once infected, you’re likely to be protected from future infections although there is no medicine or vaccine to treat Zika. For additional information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, visit this CDC page. The CDC also has information for specific groups such as pregnant women, travelers, those who are thinking about getting pregnant, and parents here.
How Widespread is Zika virus?
While no local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in US states, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Yale University confirms that the Aedes mosquito infests regions of North America, including the southern United States, and as far north as New York and Chicago. It is most common in warm, coastal regions, but scientists believe that due to warmer-than-average temperatures, the virus could easily spread north. Recent research also suggests that the mosquito may be adapting to colder temperatures.
DC Mosquito Squad reports that the mosquito that spreads Zika is an unusually resilient and opportunistic species that is very difficult to eradicate. Unlike other species, it lives in and amongst homes, bites during the day, and its eggs can survive in very small amounts of water – and even without it.
Preventing Mosquito Bites and Protecting from Zika Virus
With the World Health Organization declaring Zika a global health emergency, families whose kids are susceptible to mosquito bites in warm weather should take precautions to protect children from mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around the home. Here are 29 things you can do to help your family stay bite and Zika-free this summer.
15 Ways to Protect Your Family from Mosquito Bites
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies under 2 months of age.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- In children older than 2 months, do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or to irritated or broken skin.
- Never spray insect repellent directly on a child’s face. Instead, spray it on your hands and then apply sparingly, taking care to avoid the eyes and mouth.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Always follow the product label instructions for insect repellent
- Reapply insect repellent as directed
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last. If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully. Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
14 Ways to Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Grounds Around the House
DC Mosquito Squad reports that Aedes mosquitoes can thrive in modern cities because they can lay eggs anywhere that will fill up with standing water – from large pools like buckets and empty trash cans to tiny puddles like plastic bags and animal food bowls. This means they are incredibly hard to eradicate. To reduce the chances of the Zika virus, Lowe’s Pro Services recommends the following actions eliminate mosquito breeding grounds:
- Cover rain barrels with a screen or other barrier
- Keep garbage cans covered with lids
- Drain water from tarps or other protective sheeting
- Cover buckets, flower pots and other containers that might accumulate water
- Unclog rain gutters that might not be draining well
- Repair any leaky outdoor faucets or sprinkler heads
- Avoid excessive watering of lawns and plants near the building
- Add topsoil to uneven areas of the property that might accumulate rainwater
- Pick up and dispose of unused containers such as empty buckets and plastic bottles
- Keep rain gutters and storm drains clean and flowing freely
- Change water in birdbaths every three-to-four days
- Keep swimming pools and hot tubs clean and chlorinated
- Trim and maintain your lawns and shrubbery
- Hire Mosquito Squad to spray your yard
How I’ve Gotten Rid of Backyard Mosquitos and Reclaimed Our Yard
During the summer months, I am a prime target for mosquitos and it’s difficult for me to enjoy being outside when just walking from the car to the house results in numerous bug bites. Two years ago I hired D.C. Mosquito Squad to rid our yard of mosquitos so I could reclaim our backyard space and enjoy being outside and it’s money well spent. This year we’ll be using D.C. Mosquito Squad again and with the recent news of Zika, I know that having our yard sprayed regularly will keep us from getting bitten by regular and any infected Aedes mosquitoes
Mosquito Squad has two different spray plans to choose from- the regular barrier spray or all-natural option. Both greatly reduce the number of mosquitoes on your property and is effective for up to 3 weeks. Unlike many DIY remedies or candles that lose their effectiveness after a short amount of time, Mosquito Squad’s treatment is a perfect solution that eliminated the need for applying smelly, DEET-containing repellents directly on my skin.
Mosquito Squad’s most popular service is their standard barrier treatment applied by a professional who carries the spray like a backpack and applies it to the front and/or back your yard for maximum coverage. It kills mosquitoes for twenty-one days but is safe for pets (including our backyard chickens who eat bugs and our Labrador, Oliver), kids, and fruit and vegetable gardens.
We’ll be taking precautions to protect ourselves from mosquitos this summer but Mosquito Squad provides an extra layer of confidence that we’ll be even better protected
For more information, visit D.C. Mosquito Squad and connect with them on Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram. Their blog is also full of helpful information, regardless of where in the country you live.
For additional information about Zika virus, visit:
- World Health Organization
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest trustworthy information about Zika, up to date information about areas with Zika not only in the United States but around the world, and symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment
- 7 Facts About The Zika Virus
- As the Zika Virus Spreads, Here’s What You Need To Know
- Which Mosquito Spreads Zika?
- Zika and Guillain Barre in Colombia
- Why is the Zika Epidemic Happening Now?
- A New & More Common Mosquito Can Spread Zika Virus
- Zika Neuro Disease Link for Adults
This post was written in partnership with D.C. Mosquito Squad who is providing standard barrier treatment for our yard this summer. Images courtesy of Mosquito Squad and the CDC. Sources for this piece include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DC Mosquito Squad.