AgriLife Extension Offers Tips for Avoiding Zika
You have heard of the Zika virus in the news. The mosquito-transmitted virus is a potential threat to the health of unborn babies in Texas and other states. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has stepped up efforts to educate the public on ways to protect themselves from this new menace.
Dr. Sonja Swiger, AgriLife Extension entomologist, reminds us that it’s important to remember that the first line of defense against Zika is to avoid being bitten by mosquitos while we enjoy outdoor activities and summer travel. The Aides aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitos that transmit Zika occur commonly in our backyards where their eggs are laid and larvai live in standing water. They are active at sunrise and sunset like other mosquitos, but commonly bite throughout the day as well.
Swiger said it’s important to remember the “Four D’s” as a first line of defense. They are:
1) Drain: empy standing water, thus eliminating mosquito breeding sites.
2) Dress: Put on long sleeved shirts and pants when going outside.
3) Defend: Apply mosquito repellent when going outside.
4) Dusk and Dawn: Avoid outdoor activity during these two most mosquito-active periods.
Swiger said simple steps such as repairing screen doors and windows are critically important to keeping mosquitos out. Managing landscape water features is another key area in the fight against the spread of Zika. Mosquito dunks, sold in garden centers, can be used to treat water that cannot be readily drained. They contain insect growth regulators or mosquito=specific bacteria to effectively control mosquito larvae. These are not harmful to fish or other aquatic organisms.
Dr. Mike Merchant, AgriLife Extension Urban Entomologist at Dallas, indicates that fighting Zika will be much different than fighting West Nile virus. Aedes mosquitoes infected with Zika are not easily detected, so health official have to rely on actual human cases to identify hot spots. City and county-mounted sprayers are less effective at killing Aedes mosquitos, so stopping these mosquitoes in every backyard is even more important.
Anything that holds water should be dumped or treated. Breeding areas can include containers under potted plants and bird baths, old tires, empty cans and bottles, kiddie pools, buckets, boat tarps and even clogged gutters. Merchant states that it doesn’t take much water for the mosquitoes to reproduce. Aedes mosquitoes don’t travel far from their larval habitat, so if you have them, chances are you unknowingly raised them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control conclude that mosquito repellents containing DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (called IR3535) as active ingredients provide reasonably long-lasting protection from mosquito bites. When used as directed, they are safe for people to use and are effective in repelling mosquitoes.
Users should always read and follow label instructions. Most repellents can be used on children over two months of age, except for those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, which should not be used on children younger than 3 years old. For babies under two months of age, infant carriers fitted with mosquito netting are recommended. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers can safely use EPA-approved insect repellents.
The highest risk is for pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant. To reduce risk during pregnancy, it is recommended to avoid intercourse with a recent visitor to a Zika-infested area, or always use a condom. Symptoms of the Zika virus usually start 2 to 7 days after infection and last about one week. 80% show no symptoms while the remaining 20% may have itchy eyes, fever, joint pain, and a rash. If a pregnant woman contracts Zika, the unborn baby may develop a severe birth defect know as microcephaly, which causes an unusually small head, brain damage, and often death of the infant.
Swiger said that all cases of Zika in Texas have been travel associated, except for one contracted sexually from their partner who traveled. It is a global world of travel, and as people return from areas affected by Zika, some will return carrying the virus. Epidemics are expected as infected people arrive and locally acquired infections occur. Women infected by the virus while pregnant are known to have babies with severe neurological defects. Aside from mosquito infections, additional cases may occur from sexual transmission of the disease.
So do we need to panic? No! Controlling mosquitoes and protecting yourself from infection are the two key factors in the rigorous defense against this new mosquito-borne virus. More information is available at the following websites:
Texasinsects.org; Livestockvetento.tamu.edu; Preventingzika.org.
Fall Festival Creative Arts Contest
Watch for information on entry categories coming soon! In the meantime, save the dates: registration of items will take place October 17 thru 19 at the Extension Office, and afternoon on October 20 at the Sulphur Springs High School Conference Center. Judging will take place on the morning of October 21, and public viewing that afternoon thru Saturday, October 22 at the Sulphur Springs High School Conference Center.
Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts and never hope for more than you work – Rita Mae Brown
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax