The travel season is here and travelers’ excitement about soaking up some sun in a tropical locale is turning to concern about mosquitoes. In early 2015, the World Health Organization declared Zika virus a global public health threat. Currently, the virus is active in 24 countries including the Philippines (!), with media coverage about it creating more questions than answers for spring break travelers.
Transmitted through Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito bites, the Zika virus causes symptoms ranging from mild fever to a skin rash to conjunctivitis. Zika is a serious concern for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant as the virus is thought to be responsible for a birth defect called microcephaly (abnormal smallness of the head linked to incomplete brain development).
If you’re traveling to one of the regions where the Zika virus mosquitoes are active, RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) wants to offer four important steps you, your family and friends can take to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.
- Put up personal barriers. Wear light-colored clothing and cover up with long sleeves and pants. Aedes mosquitoes fly during the day so cover up anytime you are outside whether daytime, dawn or dusk.
- Reinforce your habitat. Aedes breed indoors, and therefore, your home or hotel is a welcoming place to them. Make sure doors and screens are closed and in good repair to keep the biting insects outside.
- Apply mosquito-specific defenses. Be sure to apply EPA-approved insect repellent, like DEET, on exposed skin, especially your legs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a variety of safe and effective repellents for you and your family.
- Eliminate sources of standing water. Do a quick survey of your vacation surroundings and ask to have any unnecessary standing water drained, such as buckets, drums, bottles, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpot saucers, and plastic wading pools, which attract mosquitoes and allow them to breed. Aedes mosquitoes can breed in containers as small as bottle caps, so pick up litter too.