No Need to Panic over Zika Virus

Stinging MosquitoZika virus is all over the news, but it’s not all over your backyard.

“If you’re not pregnant, it’s not a problem,” said Dr. Richard Dew, Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic’s medical director.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly (an abnormally small brain). It can also cause flu-like symptoms that are so mild they do not require a visit to the doctor. In some cases, you may not even know you have it.

As of June 15, in the continental United States, there have been no locally acquired mosquito-borne cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s web site. There have been a few hundred Zika cases in the United States, the vast majority of them related to travel outside the States. Tennessee shows between 3 and 6 reported cases of Zika, according to the web site.

Zika is “not a whole lot different from most other viruses,” said Dr. Dew. Most efforts are aimed at protecting pregnant women. “The main thing is, don’t get bitten by mosquitoes if you’re a woman of childbearing years.”

That means taking common-sense precautions against the pesky insects and not going to the Olympic Games in Brazil if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Mosquitoes, not just the Zika-carrying Aedes mosquito, may carry viruses such as West Nile anyway, so it’s wise for everyone to take protective action. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellents.

Mosquitoes like to breed near or in standing water. Their life cycle (from egg to larva to pupa to adult) can take as little as four days. Make it a habit of regularly pouring off standing water in containers, changing bird bath water and spraying areas of water such as puddles that can’t be drained.