I’m quite concerned when the deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that what authorities are learning about the Zika virus is “scarier than we initially thought.” There is certainly no need to panic at this time, but it does appear that this is a disease that we may eventually have to deal with in our locale. Fortunately, as of this writing, there have been no documented cases of mosquito borne Zika infection originating in California, only a few cases involving people who have returned after traveling to Zika infected areas outside of the U.S.
Zika infection is usually pretty mild. Most people infected with Zika virus won’t even know they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms. Pregnant woman are at greatest risk of complications to their fetuses and there are reports of associated Guillain-Barre syndrome (a rare paralysis of the body in infected adults).
On April 18th, the office of the Santa Cruz County Mosquito and Vector Control (MVC) released a report to the County Board of Supervisors about its local response to mosquitoes, including our native variety, which at this time does not transmit Zika, as well newly discovered more invasive species that have been found in other parts of California and have the potential to transmit Zika. These newer mosquitoes are, unfortunately, more aggressive and tend to bite more during daylight hours. The MVC office is increasing surveillance by setting out more traps throughout the county and asking for the public’s help in reporting any increased activity of mosquitoes biting during the daytime.
At this time the MVC advises us to:
- Wear long sleeved shirts, pants, socks with shoes, and repellants when outside and anytime mosquitoes are present.
- Dump and drain standing water sources around your property.
- Report, to the MVC at 454-2590 any neglected swimming pools and other backyard standing water sources, as well as the observance of day biting mosquitoes.
These are a few of the safe, insect repellants even during pregnancy:
- DEET (Off! Deep Woods, etc) is the gold standard repellant and is safe for kids over 2 months.
- The stronger the DEET concentration the longer the time of protection.
- Picardin (Natrapel, etc.) Less oily feel and odor than DEET but equally effective.
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (Cutter Lemon of Eucalyptus, etc.) for age 3 years and older.
- Permethrin can be used on clothing or gear but not on skin.
If you are using sunscreen, apply it before using an insect repellant. When applying any repellant to children, spray it onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United Sates from an area with Zika, should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for up to 3 weeks so as to not spread Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
Again, no major need for worry about Zika virus in our community at this time, but it will probably arrive in the near future and we must be alert to this problem and begin to practice good mosquito bite protection practices.