Mosquitoes arrive looking for a meal.
With talk of the Zika virus in the news, you may be wondering what it is, whether it’s a threat here in Fairfax County and how you can prevent it.
There have not been any cases in the U.S. where the virus was contracted from local mosquitoes, but there is a risk of Zika being imported into Virginia.
So how can you protect yourself and property from mosquito bites (which, regardless of Zika, are still unpleasant and can transmit other viruses like West Nile)?
The best thing is to prevent mosquitoes around your home and neighborhood and protect yourself from their bites by taking the following steps:
- Eliminate standing water in your yard by tipping or tossing water from containers like tires, buckets, flower pots, drain pipes, tarps, bird, baths, toys, etc.
- Treat containers with a larvicide like Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (follow label instructions) if you cannot tip them.
- Considering using insecticides on bushy green plants and other vegetation to control flying mosquitoes.
- Wear insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 (follow label instructions). When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Cover exposed skin by wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Treat clothing with permethrin (do not apply to skin), which will remain protective after multiple washings.
- Keep windows and door screens in good repair to keep mosquitoes out.
— FairfaxCounty Health (@fairfaxhealth) May 19, 2016
Here are answers to other key questions you may have about Zika:
Zika is a viral disease spread to people mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Zika is transmitted primarily by the yellow fever (Aedes aegypti) and Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus) mosquitoes. These are both aggressive, day-time biting bugs, but the Asian tiger is more common in Northern Virginia. There is a risk of Zika being imported into Virginia and being transmitted by local mosquitoes.
The most at-risk population are people traveling to Zika-affected areas, especially pregnant women. Infection with Zika during pregnancy is linked to birth defects in babies, including microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected). Pregnant women are highly discouraged from traveling to Zika-infected areas (Central and South America and the Caribbean). Zika can also be spread from an infected man to his sex partners. There is also a strong possibility that Zika may can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
Most people with Zika won’t even know they have it. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
The most common symptoms are:
- joint pain
- conjunctivitis (red eyes)
If you suspect you may be infected with Zika, contact your medical practitioner, especially if pregnant. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, but once a person has been infected, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all have information about Zika on their websites.
- You can also follow the Fairfax County Health Department on Twitter and Facebook.