The spread of Zika carrying mosquitos and Zika virus is all over headline news. As we head into summer and mosquito season, it is up to us all to take smart, preventative action of our own to guard against the double whammy we New Englanders may now face: both the Zika and West Nile Virus. As we head into summer, how can we be preventing Zika virus in Connecticut?
Let’s address some basic questions about Zika Virus first.
What is Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a disease that is similar to dengue fever, spread primarily through the bite of a specific strain of an infected mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The Aedes mosquito which breeds, at least prior to 2015, primarily in Africa, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, has now begun to spread and infect people in other countries, and as of this writing, especially in Brazil and surrounding South American and Central American countries. It has been linked, undeniably now, to profound brain defects in unborn children, most notably a condition called microcephaly, a condition that causes an infants head to develop much smaller than normal, incomplete brain development and other profound brain abnormalities.
In addition to microcephaly, researchers have found that the virus seems to kill off the tissue in entire regions of the brain, damage babies’ eyes, and heighten the risk of miscarriage and fetal death as well as other neurological complications.
Researchers believe pregnant women are at the greatest risk of having babies with birth defects if they are infected in the first trimester. They’ve also estimated that women infected with Zika during the first trimester of their pregnancies face a 1 in 100 chance of delivering a baby with microcephaly. These are high statistics.
How is Zika transmitted?
4 ways that we are aware of right now:
- Via mosquito bites from the Aedes mosquito
- Through infected blood
- Through sexual contact
- From a pregnant mother to her unborn child
Preventing Zika in Connecticut: What We Can Do:
- Wear long sleeved shirts and pants and wear socks when possible
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Do not leave any uncovered standing water, such as a baby pool, out doors- they attract mosquitos.
- If camping, sleep under mosquito netting. Note that the mosquito carrying Zika bites mostly during daytime hours.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- To protect your child from mosquito bites:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellant onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex with someone who has been in an infected area
- Be vigilant if traveling to infected states and countries this summer. See the most current map-as of May 25- of countries most infiltrated with the Aedes mosquito and Zika virus