As concern over Zika virus, an emerging mosquito-borne disease, continues to grow, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is urging the public to take precautions now to help curb problems during the warmer months when biting mosquito populations tend to increase.
“We recognize that local vector transmission of Zika virus has yet to be confirmed in the continental U.S., but the number of reported travel-related cases continues to increase,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “We are monitoring the situation closely and working to help educate the public on ways to not only avoid contact with mosquitoes when traveling to regions where the disease is present, but also how they can eliminate breeding grounds at home as spring and summer approaches.”
Zika virus causes mild flu-like symptoms in about 20 percent of infected people, but the main concern among leading health organizations centers on a possible link between the virus and microcephaly, a birth defect associated with underdevelopment of the head and brain. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared Zika virus a global health emergency.
“Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus or medication to directly treat it, so those who experience symptoms should get plenty of rest, stay well hydrated and take acetaminophen for pain,” noted Dr. Jorge Parada, medical advisor for NPMA and infectious disease specialist. “The best way to avoid contracting Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is to take preventive measures when spending time outdoors.”
The NPMA suggests the following mosquito prevention tips:
- The type of Aedes mosquito that carries Zika virus is a daytime biter, so people should take steps to protect their skin from mosquito bites at all times of the day by applying an insect repellant containing at least 20% DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Also, consider wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
- Mosquito-borne diseases that may be rare in the U.S. are common in many foreign countries, so anyone traveling outside of the country should be aware of travel advisories currently in effect. If a person falls ill upon returning home, seek prompt medical attention.
- Homeowners should eliminate areas of standing water around the property such as flowerpots, birdbaths, baby pools and grill covers. Mosquitoes need only about a half an inch of water to breed. It’s also recommended to screen all windows and doors, and patch up even the smallest tear. If there are concerns about mosquito activity, contact a licensed pest control company or the local mosquito abatement district.