Ways to Prevent Zika and Other Insect-Borne Illnesses

This summer, the world has been abuzz with news of the Zika virus. Since the epidemic began sweeping through Brazil last year, there has been a great deal of concern that the virus will spread in the United States. Already, parts of Florida have seen cases of Zika, with the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami particularly at risk. In addition to Zika, other insect-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and the West Nile virus tend to re-emerge during the hottest months of the year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is currently no vaccine to protect against Zika. That said, Benefits.gov is here to share easy ways to protect yourself.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is avoiding mosquito bites. Here are a few general guidelines from the CDC that everyone should follow:

  • Invest in a good insect repellent spray or cream, and apply it on all exposed areas of skin before going outside. Make sure to look for certain active ingredients, including DEET and Picaridin, which do the best job of repelling mosquitoes
  • If you want to use insect repellent and sunscreen at the same time, apply the sunscreen first, and then the insect repellent
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old, and with older children, avoid spraying the facial area or any open cuts or sores
  • If you don’t have insect repellent, you can reduce your risk of mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants

You can also equip your house to keep out mosquitoes. Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and repair any holes in them. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, like buckets, tires, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flower pots, and trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water, so being near still and standing water can put you at risk of mosquito bites.

The CDC wants you to know that Zika can also be transmitted sexually. Taking precautions, like using condoms or practicing abstinence, can reduce your chances of contracting Zika sexually.

Avoiding Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses isn’t hard as long as you follow the steps outlined above. To learn about how to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC’s full Zika guidelines. We hope you have a great rest of the summer, and stay mosquito bite-free!