By Brianna D’Alessio South
According to NASA, July is Houston’s peak mosquito season. And this year, the arrival of mosquito season means we must be prepared to combat the Zika virus.
The virus is spread not only through mosquitoes, but also through sexual contact. It can cause severe birth defects, so the most at-risk population is pregnant women. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged pregnant women to postpone travel to Zika-affected regions in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. It’s also why we have issued similar travel advisories to our pregnant patients and are screening them for travel history and symptoms.
Zika symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. The best prevention methods are avoiding mosquito bites by using insect repellant, wearing additional clothing, staying in air-conditioned spaces, and using condoms during sexual activity. Legacy Community Health is providing our pregnant patients and those thinking about getting pregnant with Zika Prevention Packs that include insect repellant and condoms, free of charge.
Zika-related birth defects may occur in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the Houston Health Department, there are six confirmed cases in Houston, including a pregnant woman who is a Legacy patient. Nationwide, there are more than 750 Zika cases. President Obama requested $1.9 billon in emergency funding for prevention and management of the virus, as well as accelerating efforts to find a vaccine.
In June, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee held a press conference outlining preventative steps that need to be implemented this summer: creating a national task force, providing public-service messages explaining why the DEET ingredient is necessary for protection, organizing a briefing with CDC officials, creating a Houston public-service campaign to deal with travel to infected areas, and securing public and private funding to clean up areas that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“It’s only a matter of time before the Zika virus is locally transmitted here by mosquitoes,” says Dr. John Hellerstedt, head of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
NPR looked into the mosquito-control business in Harris County. “The area’s warm, muggy climate and snaking system of bayous provide an ideal habitat for mosquitoes—and the diseases they carry,” NPR reports. “These days, mosquito-control efforts include chemical spraying on foot, by truck, and occasionally from airplanes. But spraying happens strategically, after careful research reveals the geographic distribution of infected mosquitoes.”
Again, prevention is key. According to the CDC:
- Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents, wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants, and staying in places with air conditioning and screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.
- Use condoms. To help prevent spreading Zika through sexual contact, you need to use condoms correctly from start to finish, every time you have sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral (mouth-to-penis) sex. Not having sex is the only way to be sure that someone does not get the sexually transmitted Zika virus.
Please take extra precautions this summer to avoid mosquitoes.
Brianna D’Alessio South is an associate for Legacy Community Health.