What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness spread primarily by the yellow fever (Aedes aegypti) mosquito, which is found in the United States in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and in Hawaii, but has been seen as far north as Washington D.C. The Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus) mosquito can also transmit the Zika virus, and travels as far north as Chicago and New York in warm temperatures.
What Are The Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. But the disease has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis, and microcephaly, a birth defect that results in newborns with abnormally small heads.
Quick Zika Virus Facts Relevant To Austin, Texas
There are no vaccines or even treatment at this time for Zika. As of as of May 4, 2016 there have been 30 cases reported and confirmed in the state of Texas. The Texas state health department is now testing for the mosquito-borne virus at its public health lab in Austin. All of the patients in Texas contracted the virus while traveling abroad, except for a patient in Dallas County who may have gotten the virus through sexual activity with one of the travelers.
While there is certainly no reason for alarm at this point, we should all still pay attention to the common sense suggestions and precautions health officials are issuing with regards to the Zika virus. And the best way to prevent the spread of any diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
You can do this by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, and staying in places with air-conditioning and window and door screens that keep mosquitoes out.
Take Steps To Control Mosquitoes Inside And Outside Of Your Home
- Install or repair and use window and door screens. Do not leave doors propped open.
- Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.
- Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
- For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
- Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
- Use an outdoor flying insect spray where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage. When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
- If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
- Keep windows and doors shut and use air conditioning when possible.
- Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like vases and flowerpot saucers.
- Kill mosquitoes inside your home. Use an indoor flying insect fogger* or indoor insect spray* to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. These products work immediately, but may need to be reapplied. Always follow label directions. Only using insecticide will not keep your home free of mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid places like under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
- Use an indoor fogger* or indoor insect spray* to reach and treat areas were mosquitos rest inside the home.
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