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Zika Virus: Should You Be Worried?

Adventist Health Health and Wellness

Mosquitos can carry the Zika virusMosquitos are creating a lot of buzz recently as news spreads about an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The news hit home when a women from Oregon was diagnosed recently, after returning from an affected country.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a series of level 2 travel warnings for countries located mostly in the Caribbean, South America and Central America. These warnings suggest travelers take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites while visiting affected countries.

What does this mean for you and your family?

Who Is at Risk From Zika

The Zika virus, though spreading, doesn't pose a lot of risk to most people, even in affected countries.

Only about 20 percent of people exposed to Zika become ill. Symptoms of Zika include fever, joint pain and rash, and most people recover in less than week. Sometimes people don't even realize they're infected with Zika.

Brazil, host to the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, has a particularly virulent outbreak. Though the Zika virus causes a generally mild illness in adults, women infected with Zika while pregnant are delivering babies with severe brain defects at an unusually high right.

Zika warning for pregnant womenWith this in mind, the CDC's travel warning includes a suggestion that pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, postpone travel to affected areas until these outbreaks die down.

Preventing Mosquitos at Home

As well as avoiding travel to affected areas, you can help prevent any future spread of Zika or other mosquito-borne illnesses by taking steps to reduce these irritating insects around your home.

You can reduce overall mosquito populations by:

  • Taking steps to eliminate the standing water mosquitos need to breed. Watch for open buckets, cup-shaped toys or low areas around your yard where water may collect. Keep your pool clean and filtered and covered when not in use.
  • Sealing any openings where mosquitos might enter your house. Repair or replace window screens.
  • Using and regularly reapplying an insect repellent designed to ward off mosquitos when you are outdoors during mosquito season. You can also keep bites at bay by wearing long pants and sleeves and staying indoors in the early morning and evening.

A Timely Reminder About Pests

If you have traveled to a Zika-affected country and have any concerns or symptoms, contact your primary care provider.

For most of us, though, the current situation with Zika just provides a timely reminder as we approach spring's often wet and mild weather that we all can take basic steps close to home to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.