With spring just on the horizon, mosquitos aren’t on the forefront of everyone’s mind. But with recent buzz about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, it’s not too early to think about protecting yourself.
By now you’ve probably heard about the Zika virus epidemic in South and Central Americas. The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to a birth defect and its rapid spread has gained the attention of medical communities worldwide. As of right now, there is no vaccine for the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people traveling to heavily affected areas to take extra care to prevent mosquito bites.
In the U.S., instances of the Zika virus are extremely rare, with fewer than 1,000 cases per year. For most people infected with the Zika virus, the symptoms at worst are rash and flu-like symptoms. But recently, scientists have linked the Zika virus with birth defects like microcephaly. As a precaution, the CDC advises pregnant women in any trimester to consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus is spreading.
Zika is not just a concern for pregnant women, but future dads too!
While the Zika virus poses the greatest threat to pregnant women, it’s unknown how long the virus can remain active in men. If a man contracts Zika through a mosquito bite, he could potentially transmit the disease sexually and put an unborn baby at risk to birth defects. While there’s still a lot unknown about transmission of the Zika virus, it is likely the southern U.S. could see an outbreak.
Mosquito Bite Prevention
In the U.S., many households have screens and air conditioning, making them a relatively safe haven from mosquitos. Outside the home, you can prevent mosquito bites with some safe and easy-to-use products:
- Treat your clothes and gear with permethrin. It’s a DEET-free insecticide that goes on clothing and equipment like tents and sleeping bags, rather than on your skin.
- Use an effective insect repellent. Products such as Sawyer, Ultrathon and Natrapel are EPA approved, and safe for pregnant women as well, just make sure you are using them properly.
- DEET-free options such as Sawyer 20% Picaridin are effective and safe for use on gear and skin.
- Repellents in travel-friendly sizes, such as Natrapel or Ultrathon, are perfect for keeping in your carry-on or hiking pack.
- Mosquito Netting: Not the most glamorous of our suggestions but definitely effective. Treat with permethrin for extra protection.
Air Travel Tip: Most insect repellents in non-aerosol liquid pump sprays and other forms (liquids, lotions, wipes, etc.) are allowed in carry on bags. The containers must be under 3.4oz. Some liquid repellents, including some containing Picaridin or DEET, are flammable liquids–these are still allowed in checked bags but must stay within the size and quantity limits set by the FAA.