You may have been hearing in the news about a “new” disease called Zika virus, which is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause birth defects if pregnant women are infected. While this disease is mostly found in more tropical areas of Central and South America, the types of mosquitoes that carry it can be found in urban areas in many parts of the US.
It’s important to know that there is still A LOT WE DON’T KNOW about the virus, and whether it is definitely the cause of the birth defects being seen. This news release from Purdue University was issued earlier this week, and contains as much information as we currently KNOW about the situation: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2016/Q1/controlling-and-avoiding-mosquitoes-helps-minimize-risk-of-zika.html
Other than following the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations that women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant avoid traveling to countries where Zika transmission is ongoing, the most important thing we can do locally is prevent mosquito populations from building up. Eliminating potential breeding sites of Aedes mosquitoes (the ones that come out during daytime hours) can significantly reduce people’s chances of getting bitten by an infected mosquito. These are container-breeding mosquitoes that are often found in urban areas. Getting rid of objects that collect water around houses, workplaces and recreational areas can go a long way to reducing disease transmission. Typical breeding sites include birdbaths, potted plants, dog bowls, tin cans, tires, gutters, and other places likely to become inundated with water.
Mosquitoes aren’t usually out in our area during winter. However, with the possibility of excessive rains in our area due to El Niño and climate change, steps should be taken now to get rid of any sites or objects that could hold stagnant water. Additionally, as the weather warms up, it would be highly advisable to use insect repellents to protect yourself whenever outdoors this season.
More information on Zika Virus can be found on the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html .