Florida just became a hot bed for the Zika virus in the United States. In the last couple of days, 14 reported cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been found in a neighborhood slightly north of Miami.
The infected mosquitoes have not been captured, but officials have confirmed that this cluster of cases is not travel-related or sexually transmitted. CDC Director Tom Frieden said Friday, “As we have anticipated, Zika is now here.” The FDA has even halted blood donation for a few Florida counties as a precaution until the blood can be tested for the virus.
What Does This Mean for Those of Us Living in Massachusetts?
Data shows that of the nearly 1700 Zika cases reported in the U.S., 52 come from Massachusetts. Should residents be alarmed with these numbers?
The good news is that local officials say that West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (Triple E) still pose a greater threat than the Zika virus.
The mosquito that carries the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, does not survive colder climates. The cold winters of Massachusetts actually keep the population of this species of mosquito down. A great fact to remember come January.
Also, with the use of air conditioners and screens in the United States, most homes are mosquito free, a luxury not enjoyed by some of the poorer communities outside of the country, where the virus spreads very quickly through neighborhoods.
Here Are a Few More Options If You Are Asking, “What Can I Do to Protect Myself?”
Avoid traveling to countries with current outbreaks, including Brazil and Puerto Rico. Another idea is to assemble a Zika Virus Kit.
This kit includes:
- a bed net: mosquitoes living inside the house will bite at all times, including the day or night,
- standing water treatment tablets: these tablets will kill any larvae in standing water, including ponds or small bodies of water that cannot be removed or dumped out,
- insect repellent with DEET: to spray on the skin whenever outside,
- and finally, Permethrin spray: to spray for all clothing and gear to repel and kill many types of bugs, including ticks.