It's been more than a year since the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus put a kibosh on vacation plans and made spending time outdoors seem a lot scarier. But despite fading from the headlines, Zika isn't going away. In 2017, Zika still poses a threat and updated Zika safety guidelines for this summer are worth reading.
Last year, people were cautioned against traveling to tropical climates where Zika had been found and the outbreak even stopped some athletes from traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics. But Zika wasn't just a concern internationally — in the United States, mosquitoes carrying the virus were found in one area of Miami, Florida, as well as Texas. As previously stated, Zika is still just as much of a threat as it was last year. Although the virus is no longer seen as an emergency in many countries, according to STAT, Zika hasn't gone away.
"People are just going to have to accept that as part of the new reality," Dr. Martin Cetron, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's global migration and quarantine division told STAT. "Until we have better prevention tools, we're just facing this as part of the new normal."
Because Zika is now part of our "new normal," the following tips can help you protect yourself against the potential threat of the virus, even if there have been no reported cases of locally transmitted Zika this year in the United States. These tips are especially important for women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, to follow.
Avoid Traveling To Tropical Climates, Especially If You're Pregnant
Currently, the CDC has issued a warning about pregnant women traveling to different countries with a risk of Zika due to the potential health consequences. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika, flourishes in the heat and therefore loves hanging out in your favorite tropical vacation hot spots. Travel notices have been made for countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and the Pacific Islands. A full map of all of the areas and countries can be viewed here.
Wear Bug Spray
Wearing bug spray to ward off mosquitoes from biting you is an incredibly important step in terms of Zika prevention — especially because there is no vaccine to prevent or treat Zika itself yet. The most effective repellents for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, according to Consumer Reports, contain at least 15 to 30 percent deet, 20 percent picardin, or 30 percent OLE. Consumer Reports advises against skipping most repellents with natural plant oils (they don't perform as well as the others).
Get Rid Of Standing Water Around Your Home
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. The more standing water that there is around your home, the easier it is for mosquitoes to create, well, more mosquitoes. The CDC advises emptying and scrubbing items like baby pools, bird baths, and toys laying around in your yard to get rid of any mosquitoes and their eggs. Even standing water inside of your home (like in a vase) can provide a habitat for a mosquito that snuck inside to lay its eggs. By controlling mosquitoes in and around your home, you'll be able to enjoy drinks on your patio without having to worry about Zika.
Wear Protective Clothing
The last thing you probably want to do when it's hot out is wear long sleeves or pants, especially in the summer heat. But the more you're covered, the less likely mosquitos are to bite. Wearing light and airy protective clothing, or clothing with insect repellant built into it, especially if you'll be out in a mosquito-dense area (camping, hiking, etc), can provide an extra measure to protect against Zika.
Practice Safe Sex
Safe sex should always be practiced, not just when it comes to protecting yourself against Zika for the summer. But as previously stated, Zika can be sexually transmitted and can stay in semen for much longer than other bodily fluids, according to the CDC. Therefore, it is important to use a condom during sex to reduce the chances of infection, especially if either partner has traveled to an area with a risk of Zika.
Zika poses a significant problem to a lot of people —while it can cause flu like symptoms that can last for up to a week in adults, it can cause several other birth and brain defects for babies who contracted the virus while in utero. Practicing safety guidelines this summer is the best way to avoid these risks and spend your sunny days worry-free.