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Zika Virus: Follow These Simple Steps to Prevent Spread of the Deadly Mosquito-borne Disease

One has to use screens on windows and doors. The holes in screens should also be repaired when needed to keep mosquitoes outdoors.

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Updated:September 1, 2019, 1:59 PM IST
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Zika Virus: Follow These Simple Steps to Prevent Spread of the Deadly Mosquito-borne Disease
Representative Image (Photo: Reuters)
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The mosquito-borne diseases come uninvited with the monsoon. With dengue and malaria as two of the most common vector-borne diseases, many countries are reporting an increased number of cases of chikungunya, zika and Japanese encephalitis, causing a worry for health officials. Out of these, the Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites with usually fairly light symptoms. While the areas in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands have had an outbreak of zika, the virus gained a foothold in Brazil. The cases have since been recorded in 97 countries.

The worry comes with the fact that currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no medicine to treat it. In such a situation, the best protection is to prevent mosquito bites and avoid regions with the virus. To understand the ways to prevent the spread of zika virus, it is also essential to understand the cause of this vector-borne disease. The species that carry Zika virus are the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The Aedes aegypti also carry dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

These vectors usually live in tropical areas, with populations in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas. In addition, the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bite in day, but they can also be found at night in busy areas.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given a list of steps that can be adapted to prevent the spread of zika virus or any other mosquito-borne disease.

Firstly, use an effective mosquito repellent. It is advised to use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents, which has one of the active ingredients, including DEET, Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US), IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD) and 2-undecanone.

Another preventive measure includes wearing proper cloths and gear. For this, one can use permethrin to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills or repels mosquitoes and the permethrin-treated clothing provides protection after multiple washings. However, permethrin products should not be used directly on skin.

In addition, one should take steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors. For this, one has to use screens on windows and doors. The holes in screens should also be repaired when needed to keep mosquitoes outdoors. It is also advisable to use air conditioning, if available.

One must also stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near water. For this, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers, at least once a week.

The most important step is to prevent mosquito bites when traveling overseas. The tropical areas provide perfect temperature for the breeding of mosquitoes. To avoid this, one should choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors. Even there, one should sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that does not have screens.

In addition, if travelling overseas, one should buy a bed net at your local outdoor store or online before traveling. Choose a WHOPES-approved bed net, which is compact, white, rectangular and long enough to tuck under the mattress. The permethrin-treated bed nets provide more protection than untreated nets. Last of all, do not wash bed nets or expose them to sunlight. This will break down the insecticide more quickly.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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