have always been an annoying part of summer, but suddenly they
seem to loom larger and buzz louder.
world facing its latest health threat from the mosquito-borne
Zika virus, you might be tempted to cancel your summer trip to
Mexico or points south, including Brazil ó even if you were
lucky enough to snag tickets to the Summer Olympics.
the U.S., you might worry about getting bitten by a Culex
mosquito. Thatís the species that carries the West Nile
virus, which now is endemic in California. While the global
village we live in means we can no longer wave off certain
diseases as distant epidemics, health officials also say thereís
no cause for panic.
with the risks of Zika-related birth defects, pregnant women
should carefully consider visiting countries dealing with
the rest of us can reduce our risk by using simple
has issued travel warnings for about 50 countries regarding
the Zika virus, including Mexico and in the Caribbean, Central
and South America and the Pacific Islands. Specifics about
advisories for each country are available at
travel to these countries, try to stay indoors behind screens,
or closed doors or windows as much as possible, especially
during the day when the mosquitoes are most active. At night,
sleep under a mosquito net.
THE RIGHT CLOTHES
right clothes can go a long way toward reducing bites.
seem counterintuitive to don long pants and sleeves in
tropical climates, but try to cover as much skin as possible.
Clothing with a close weave works best to prevent bites, but
layered loose-weave clothing works almost as well, says Joe
Conlon, medical entomologist and technical adviser to the
American Mosquito Control Association.
because bugs are attracted to dark colors, go for clothes in
white, beige or light khaki colors, he says.
says you can also buy clothing treated with a repellent called
permethrin, which is marketed under the name Insect Shield and
can maintain its repellency through 70 washings. The
Department of Defense developed this technology decades ago to
protect troops in battle from insect-borne diseases.
Bugsaway line, outdoor clothing manufacturer ExOfficio sells
Insect Shield menís and womenís shirts, pants, hoodies,
hats and socks (
THE RIGHT BUG SPRAY
comes to sprays, not all brands are created equal. Consumer
Reports found that the most effective repellents for warding
off Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8
Hour, each of which contains a 20 percent concentration of the
chemical picaridin. Another good one is Off! Deepwoods VIII,
which contains 25 percent of the chemical DEET.
did these products keep mosquitoes from biting for about eight
hours, they are registered with the Environmental Protection
Agency, which means they are evaluated for safety and
Reports cautions against using many so-called
"natural" repellents, using citronella, clove,
lemongrass or rosemary oils. These products might smell nice,
but they wonít keep mosquitoes away for long, and many arenít
registered with the EPA.
exception in the plant oil category is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus,
which contains 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus. This
repellent warded off mosquitoes for seven hours.
says DEET products are safe for pregnant women to use, but
parents should avoid using picaridin or lemon eucalyptus
sprays on young children because they can cause a rash.
Reports also suggests that insect repellent wrist bands that
have been marketed as being safer because you donít have to
rub anything on your skin donít do much good. When testers
stuck their arms into a cageful of mosquitoes, while wearing
bands with citronella or geraniol oils, the bugs started
MOSQUITOES AT HOME
clear of the West Nile-carrying Culex mosquitoes, itís best
to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when they are most active.
eliminate mosquito breeding grounds from your yard, dump or
drain water thatís been standing for several days in flower
planters, pet dishes, birdbaths, neglected swimming pools and
remove old tires, tin cans or buckets.
want to enjoy your patio or deck in the evening, Conlon
suggests illuminating it with yellow "bug lights"
instead of incandescent white lights. While the yellow lights
donít necessarily repel mosquitoes, they donít attract
them as the white lights do.
a breeze with strategically placed floor fans can push
weak-flying mosquitoes away and also dissipate the olfactory
clues they use to locate prey, he says.
candles have a mild repellent effect but are no better
protection than Tiki Torches or other candles that produce
spread Zika to a female partner through sexual transmission,
as has been demonstrated with 11 U.S. Zika cases. However, itís
still uncertain if women can pass the virus onto male
partners, or which modes of sexual transmission are most
more is known, the World Health Organization says men and
women returning from Zika-affected areas ó especially
pregnant women and their partners ó should practice safe
sex, including using condoms or abstaining from sex, for at
least eight weeks.
recommendation, doubling the abstinence period previously
recommended, came recently after scientists found that the
virus lingers longer than previously thought in the blood or
other body fluids.
male partner has symptoms, a couple should practice safe sex
or abstain from sex for six months.
spokesman Christian Lindmeier also said that couples in Zika-affected
areas should consider delaying a pregnancy.
STORY CAN END HERE)
LATEST ON ZIKA AND WEST NILE
scary is Zika?: While Zika has spread through the Americas
over the past few years, most people with Zika donít get
sick. For the one in five who develop a fever, rash, joint
pain and other symptoms, the symptoms are usually mild and
last about a week. Still, Zika has been implicated in more
than 4,000 cases of infants in Brazil born with microcephaly,
an unusually small brain. Health officials also are
investigating Zikaís possible role in Guillain-Barrť
syndrome, a rare disease affecting the nervous system. The two
species of Aedes mosquitoes that carry Zika are already in
California, according to Vicki Kramer, chief of the vector
board disease section at the California Department of Public
Health. The bugs have been detected in 12 California counties,
including in Alameda and San Mateo counties. But as of late
May, there had been no documented cases of mosquito-bite
transmissions in the United States, though that could change
in the coming months. Of over 600 confirmed Zika infections in
the continental United States, all involve people who had
traveled to other countries.
women most at risk: Health officials have confirmed that the
virus, passed from an infected mother to her fetus during
pregnancy, can cause birth defects. Therefore, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid
traveling to some 50 countries listed on their website.
Nile Virus still here: "West Nile virus is here to
stay," says Kramer of the state public health department.
"People will become ill from this illness, and people
will die from it. Itís happened every year since 2003."
The Culex mosquito, like the Aedes, also likes hot weather. Itís
active in Southern California and the Central Valley. The
insects pick up West Nile from feeding on infected birds.
Unlike Zika, the risk of mother-to-child West Nile
transmission during pregnancy is extremely rare. But like Zika,
few people who get West Nile virus will develop serious
symptoms, and 80 percent wonít suffer any symptoms at all.
out for the birds: Because birds carry West Nile, itís
important to alert public health officials if you find a dead
bird in your yard or neighborhood, particularly if itís a
crow, jay, magpie, raven, sparrow, finch or raptor. You can
file the report online at