According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika is now a global public health emergency because it is “spreading explosively” through the New World. Unfortunately, many health officials confirm that there are quite a few “unknowns” about the virus and what it can and cannot do. As with anything health-related, it usually better to be safe than sorry.

A Few Things You Should Know

  • Zika could infect up to 4 million people before the end of 2016
  • The virus has gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions” according to the WHO director-general Margaret Chan – due largely to what is unknown about it.
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes
  • Zika virus can also be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners
  • The virus can stay in semen longer than in blood
  • People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms that can include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache which may last for 2-7 days
  • Potential neurological and auto-immune complications of Zika virus disease are now being reported
  • Health authorities have observed an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves and can lead to paralysis) in outbreak areas
  • Health authorities have also observed an increase in babies born with microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected) and other severe fetal brain defects in outbreak areas
  • While seemingly rare, deaths are now being linked to Zika
  • At the time of this writing – there have been over 350 reported cases of Zika in the United States
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available

Things You Can Do

Avoiding mosquitoes is a great idea in general. Historically, mosquitoes have caused more human suffering than any other organism and they are considered the most dangerous creatures on the planet. In fact, over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year. This is because they have the ability to transmit several diseases and parasites to humans – but also to our pets, which may then spread to humans via contact. These diseases include things like Malaria, Chikungunya, Dog Heartworm, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, LaCrosse Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and of course Zika. If you can simply avoid being in their presence, the better off you are going to be.

Repel mosquitoes. If you have to be around them for some reason, arguably the best way to protect yourself is by wearing some kind of mosquito repellant. You can go the chemical route or the natural route.

  • DEET: This is N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide. While it is effective at repelling biting insects, it comes with a bit of risk. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported 14 to 46 cases of potential DEET-associated seizures, including 4 deaths. If you wish to avoid such complications, follow the manufacturer’s precautions and do not use it under clothing or on damaged skin, and makes sure to wash thoroughly after you are no longer in need of protection.

Products containing DEET include Cutter, OFF!, and REPEL.

  • Picaridin: KBR 3032. Picaridin does not kill insects, it sort of hides their pray. It is a synthetic compound made to resemble piperine. Picaridin has only been available in the United States since 2005.

Products containing picaridin include Sawyer, Natrapel 8 Hour, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus.

  • Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate (IR3535): insect repellent. Similar to alanine and beta-alanine. The EPA has classified IR3535 as a biochemical substance based on the fact that it is “functionally identical” to beta-alanine – which is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid often used for sports supplementation.

Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard PlusR&R Lotion, and SkinSmart.

  • Essential oils are said to be quite effective; especially in combination. These include Basil, Catnip, Clove, Citronella, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Myrrh, Neem, Palmarosa, Peppermint, Pine, and Rosemary. Some companies are getting pretty creative and making bracelets that combine some of these oils.
  • The CDC and other health authorities actually recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus because experts say that it is just as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes but without the potential toxic exposure. You just rub a small amount on exposed skin or dab some on your clothing. But remember; if a mosquito lands on you, it’s time for more. You do not have to mix it yourself if you do not want to. Products like bugSHIELD are ready to go.
  • If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use a repellent on exposed skin.
  • Keep your house cool by using air conditioning or make sure that your windows and door screens are peak condition.

Avoid Processed and Sugary Foods. According to the Alderleaf Wilderness College, outdoors-people eating diets rich in fruits and vegetables have noted that they receive fewer mosquito bites than those consuming more processed and sugary foods. It’s a double win because you will boost your immune system by doing so which will aid your body in dealing with potential exposure.

Boost your immune system. Whether you have already been exposed or as a preventative, it’s a great idea. Nothing is full-proof but your body has a way of dealing with such infections. Similar to eating a healthy diet and reducing toxic exposures to sugars, it is wise to make sure your body is getting everything it needs. There are many antiviral/immune building substances but Garlic and Olive Leaf Extract are among my favorites. These will help build your immune system, fight viruses, and help destroy any secondary infections attempting to take root. If you want to know more about building better health, I recommend you pick up a copy of “Natural Health Made Easy”.

A Few Additional Tips

Burn citronella candles when you are outdoors and avoid buying baited traps for your property. This is because placing such traps might very well attract mosquitoes that would have otherwise not been around.

It is common knowledge that mosquitoes lay their eggs in bodies of standing water, so try to eliminate places in your yard that can hold moisture for more than seven to ten days. These might include your trash can, old tires, clogged gutters, buckets, wading pools, pet watering dishes, pitcher plants, flower pots, planter boxes or anywhere else you might find standing water around your property. Reducing these will help reduce the population around your home.

Although it might be tempting, try not to spray insecticide on your property. You actually run the risk of killing off mosquitoes’ natural predators such as Dragonflies and Damselflies. These bugs actually consume mosquitoes. Furthermore, you run the risk of hurting the birds that will help keep mosquito populations at bay. New research links popular insecticides to population decline across 14 species of birds.

Speaking of Dragonflies; if you have a large body of water on your property, you can look into placing some flat rocks in a few places around it. Dragonflies seem to like these. Adult dragonflies also like places to perch, so wispy water plants may attract them. You might also look into using “Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis” in your pond. This is a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larvae. You can pick some up at your local garden center.

Hope this helps. Good luck!