8 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Getting Zika This Summer

Without a vaccine, preventing the mosquito bite in the first place is the only defense we have.

By now, unless you’ve been living under a (mosquito-free) rock, you’ve likely heard of the Zika virus, the risks associated with a pregnant woman getting Zika and children being born with severe birth defects. Microcephaly, a condition in which a child is born with an under-developed brain and skull, has been the condition getting the most attention: one study suggests the rate can be as high as 13 percent of children born to women infected with Zika while pregnant. The rates of other birth defects (such as defects in the urinary or gastrointestinal tracts) could be even higher. In children and adults, Zika also may rarely cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological condition that can temporarily cause weakness and even paralysis.

So what do you do? Everyone needs to do their part to reduce the risk of Zika, but if you’re a considering pregnancy in the next few months, whether you’re a woman or a partner, you really need to pay attention. Without a vaccine, preventing the mosquito bite in the first place is the only defense we have.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding

  1. Dump (and scrub away) standing water – Female Aedes mosquitos (the ones that carry Zika) lay hundreds of eggs at a time, along the walls of containers filled with water. That includes potted plants, swimming pools with inadequate filters, toys or even trash containers. It takes about a week for eggs to hatch, so once a week, dump out these containers – and scrub their sides – to remove any adherent eggs.

  2. Protect the septic tank – OK, after I learned this, I was so grossed out, but we need to do this for all mosquitos, whether or not Zika is a threat. Apparently, mosquitos like to lay eggs in septic tanks, too. Make sure you don’t have any broken/cracked/spaces between blocks covering your septic tanks and put screen covers (mesh wires too small for mosquitos) over any ventilation pipes coming from the tank. Got an abandoned septic tank? Fill it with dirt.

Keep Bugs Out Of Your Home (And Stay Away From Theirs)

  1. Ensure all windows have intact screens or use the AC. This isn’t the year for wide-opened windows, curtains billowing in the wind. Aedes mosquitos bite during the day and in the evening, so make sure screens are intact. A cool air-conditioned house will also be unfriendly to mosquitos, which like it nice and warm.

  2. Watch your travel. While the Aedes mosquito is predicted to be in the Southern U.S. and along the East Coast by this summer, right now the CDC recommends that people considering children in the near future stay away from the Aedes’ home base: Central and South America, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. Check out the CDC Travel Advisory for up-to-date info.

  3. Practice safe sex. Don’t have unprotected intercourse with a male who has traveled to one of these countries for three weeks (and wait six months if he knows he developed Zika). According to the CDC, Zika can be passed via sexual transmission, and there are 11 such cases in the U.S. already.

Keep the Bugs from Biting You

  1. Repel, repel, repel! According to the CDC, our two best repellant bets are DEET (10-30 percent; 10 percent is only effective for about 2 hours, 24 percent gives you around 5 hours) or Picaridin (stick to 20 percent to have the same efficacy as DEET), and can be applied directly to skin.

  2. Roll out the anti-Zika wardrobe. Yes, I said it. Those funny-looking repellant clothes you’ve seen in outdoors catalogs? Better stock up this summer! Wear long sleeves and pants treated with Permethrin – spraying for 30-45 seconds and allowing to dry fully before wearing (Don’t apply Permethrin to skin—just clothing.)

  3. Combine defenses. According to the CDC, the best repellant protection is a combination – wear permethrin-treated clothing in long sleeves and pants, and then apply a DEET or Picaridin repellant to any small skin-exposed.

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