The Zika virus is in the news right now, however, it is not the only virus or disease spread by mosquitoes that you have to worry about when warmer weather arrives.
Although the chikungunya virus is not common in the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have had large outbreaks.
Symptoms include high fever and joint pain, and the joint pain, although rare can become chronic. Other symptoms include swelling of the joints, headache, muscle pain, and rash. The virus is rarely fatal, but the symptoms such as joint pain can be severe and debilitating. Currently, there is no vaccine available.
It is estimated that 40 percent of the world’s population resides in areas at risk for dengue and approximately 390 million people per year are infected. There are four types of the dengue virus, so this means a person could get the virus up to four different times. There is dengue virus 1, 2, 3, and 4. The virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. There currently is no vaccine nor medications specifically for those infected.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. If left untreated, a person may develop severe complications, which could lead to death.
In 2013 alone approximately 198 million people were affected worldwide and of those, 500,000 people died mostly children. About 150,000 cases of malaria are diagnosed each year in the United States. Many of the people infected had traveled to countries where the disease is more prevalent mainly the sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Then there is the Zika virus which is making headlines because many experts are calling it a pandemic. The Zika virus can and has caused birth defects, so pregnant women are cautioned about traveling to certain countries, and if you live in a country where the transmission of the virus is high, you have to take precautions.
How to Protect Yourself
The most reliable way to protect you is to use insect repellent. The CDC has listed repellents that are considered safe, when used as directed, for everyone including pregnant women and children. Keep in mind that when talking about active ingredients, the higher the percentage the longer the protection. Lower percentages protect as well, just not for as long as higher percentages.
Here Is a List Provided By the CDC
- DEET Products containing DEET include Cutter, OFF! as well as Skintastic.
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin): Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan outside the United States).
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD: Repel contains OLE.
- IR3535: Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart (CDC, 2016).
Other protection includes long-sleeved shirts and long pants and in areas where mosquitoes are extremely active you may want to consider headgear with netting attached.
In the heat of the summer if you do not use air conditioning and you have open windows and doors it is important that you have screens in place. If this is not possible, then netting should be used when sleeping and insect repellent used during the daylight hours. The netting must be draped in such a way as to keep insects from getting at sleeping children and adults.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water so eliminate what receptacles you can to stop water collection and treat other sources with Mosquito Dunks for example. The bacteria in the dunks kill the mosquito larvae.
The dunks are dropped into the water and left to dissolve disseminating the bacteria, which is deadly to insect larvae. Read the directions carefully, but for the most part, the dunks are safe for aquatic life and plants as well as for birds and mammals to include household pets.
Mosquito Dunks (the brand name) can be found at Lowes, Home Depot and on Amazon for example, along with other brands that contain the same bacteria.
Empty and refill birdbaths on a regular basis and treat any outdoor water features with dunks or similar products and this includes any water features you may have on your patios or porches.
Old tires, buckets, filled and untreated pools without working filters and pumps, and empty planters lying around the property will be breeding grounds for mosquito and they breed and hatch very quickly by the thousands in a very small volume of water. Remember the bucket you use to collect condensation runoff from your air conditioning unit because it can breed mosquitoes as well.
CDC. (2016, January 15). Retrieved 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/features/stopmosquitoes/