As the weather warms, we start to gear up for summer with picnics, trips to the beach and vacations dotting our calendars across the coming months. But as we prepare to enjoy our time both outdoors and abroad we need to be aware of one potential danger making the trip with us: mosquitoes.
Recently mosquitoes have been making headlines nationwide as the Zika virus begins to affect more and more individuals across the world. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been fielding an increasing number of questions about the virus as we move into the summer months, especially from pregnant or soon to be pregnant women, due to the virus’ direct link to birth defects. Given this link, it’s important that we all stay educated on the dangers of the virus and what we can do to protect ourselves from infection.
“We want to be sure that women know that [the link between the virus and birth defects] doesn’t mean that all babies born to moms who are infected with Zika virus are going to have problems” said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a Division of Public Health Information Dissemination Director for the CDC. And although not everyone infected with the virus will suffer birth defects, the virus has been linked to Microcephaly and severe brain defects, so it’s better to be safe than be sorry.
Health officials warn all those headed outside in the spring and summer months, especially those traveling abroad, to be aware of which cities, states and countries have the highest prevalence of Zika virus infections, and ask that pregnant women take extra precautions to avoid infection.
Zika virus can be spread both by mosquitoes and through sexual contact with infected partners.
“As long as we don’t have a species that’s capable of transmitting Zika virus then if somebody is coming back from traveling then the only real concerns are—they have it and they could potentially transmit [it] through sexual contact” said Kevin Shoemaker, an information officer with a Washington State Mosquito Control District.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
“With any type of mosquito borne illness really the best protection is a personal insect repellent,” said Shoemaker. The CDC also notes that preventing the spread of the virus once it is brought into the country is equally important.
“We’re continuing to recommend that people prevent sexual transmission so if their partners have been to one of those places where there is active Zika virus transmission that they either use condoms or they don’t have sex for the remainder of the pregnancy”.
So whether you’re pregnant, soon to be pregnant, or just heading out to enjoy some sun, remember to stay safe, protected, and enjoy your summer months without being bothered by those pesky mosquitoes.