Zika Reinforces the Importance of Insect Repellent
The Zika virus has been identified in many locations, including reported cases here in the United States. The virus — which is specifically dangerous for pregnant women where it can lead to birth defects in infants — has been identified in at least 35 countries or territories in the Americas. Additionally, there have been more than 350 travel-related cases reported in the United States.
While Zika is understandably in the news right now, the nation's emergency physicians warn that there are also other, very dangerous, insect-borne illnesses here in the United States that we need to protect ourselves from this summer.
"There are many mosquito-borne or tick illnesses, including several viruses that cause encephalitis, West Nile and Lyme disease, that Americans can't forget about and must protect themselves from this summer," said Jay Kaplan, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Taking protective measures when going outside is the best way to stay safe."
The easiest and most effective way to avoid getting a mosquito-borne or tick-borne illness is obviously to prevent these insects from biting you.
- When you are outside, use insect repellent (bug spray) that contains an EPA-registered active ingredient, such as DEET.
- Never use DEET on infants under 2 months old, but the CDC says most insect repellents can be used on children older than 2 months.
- Young children should not apply DEET on themselves, and adults must not apply to their hands, eyes or mouth areas or on any wounds. Check with your child's pediatrician if you have any questions.
- Mosquitos are most active when it is darker, such as during dawn or dusk. Wear long sleeves and pants during that time or consider staying indoors during those hours.
- Sleep under a mosquito net when you are in an "at risk" location, such as outdoors at a campsite.
- Consider purchasing pre-treated clothing for travel.
- Check your head, body and clothes for ticks if you've been outside, especially in wooded areas.
Prevention Around The House
- Put screens on any windows or sliding doors to keep mosquitos out.
- Get rid of standing water near your house or in your lawn, such as puddles, flower pots, buckets, barrels and child waiting pools when they are not in use. These are mosquito breeding sites. Keep fountain waters flowing if possible and maintain clean gutters around your property.
- Don't handle dead birds. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on infected birds. Contact your local health department for instructions on reporting and disposing of dead birds.
As always, take precautions and go to your doctor or the nearest emergency department to get checked out if you feel you have the symptoms of a medical emergency.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.