Can You Get Zika From Sharing Food? Don't Cancel Your Summer Cookout Just Yet
With the unofficial end of summer approaching, you might be ready for cooler temperatures after the last few sweltering weeks. Fall means it'll be nice to be able to sit outside and sip a nice glass of wine without having to worry too much about being bitten up by mosquitos. It's been the Summer of Zika, and residents in the southeastern United States are more than happy for mosquito season to come to an early end. But the Zika threat doesn't go away with the last dying mosquito of the season: If you do contract Zika, you can still infect others. With Labor Day cookouts just a few weeks away, can you get Zika from sharing food?
Nope! There have been plenty of myths and rumors about Zika floating around the internet, but no matter what your mom posts on Facebook, no, you can't get Zika from sharing food. With so little known about this mosquito-borne disease, it's no surprise that facts might get lost in the shuffle of information. Zika has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly and neurological disorders like Guillain-Barré Syndrome. And since Zika is a sexually transmitted disease, it can still be passed between partners weeks after infection: Zika can live in the body up to three months or more.
It's not all vampirism for these obnoxiously annoying insects that don't do a whole lot for the eco-system. Mosquitos eat more than just blood. They need sugar, so they actually feed off of nectar from fruits and flowering plants, contributing to pollination in the process. It's only female mosquitos that bite — they need the protein to lay their eggs. So it's entirely possible you could see mosquitos landing on your fruit salad at your next cookout — but they're not insidiously injecting the Zika virus into your strawberries and cantaloupe.
When it comes to sharing food, it's just not part of Zika's transmission vectors. You're more likely to pick up germs like the common cold or strep throat from sharing food. And even if you sneak a bite off your best friend's plate when she isn't looking, you're at greater risk for contracting food-borne illnesses than catching Zika. Remember that huge hotdog recall for listeria earlier this summer?
But if you double dip the hummus at your next outdoor gathering — which, um ew, gross — don't sweat it. The most you'll have to worry about is maybe catching a coldsore (also gross) and definitely the disgusted looks from your friends because, seriously, who double dips the hummus at a party? Take proper Zika precautions when going outdoors, have a sip of your best bud's beer and let's bring on the end-of-summer barbecues.