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UK scientists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, which can cause irritation and spread disease.

Protect yourself against mosquito bites this summer

Recent warm weather and heavy rains have given mosquitoes a head start on summer, UK scientists say. Thanks to the weather, mosquitoes are appearing earlier than normal this year, and UK entomologists are encouraging Kentuckians to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites on themselves and their families.

Mosquito bites can cause skin irritation in the form of itchy, red bumps at the location of the bites, and the insects can also spread harmful diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and others.

Mosquitoes’ early arrival

This past week, UK entomologists captured Asian tiger mosquitoes in Central Kentucky. These mosquitoes normally appear in this area in mid-June, and populations begin to climb throughout the summer, peaking in late July and early August. The mosquitoes tend to arrive in Western Kentucky a little earlier and appear in Eastern Kentucky a little later than in Central Kentucky.

This Asian tiger mosquito is responsible for 85 percent of the bites Kentuckians receive.

“The Asian tiger mosquito is opportunistic; it feeds on several species of animals in addition to humans,” said Lee Townsend, UK extension entomologist. “It tends to bite humans around the ankles, an area that is often overlooked when applying repellents.”

Tips for protection

Take the following measures to protect yourself and loved ones this summer:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
  • Drain any standing water, as it is a potential breeding site for mosquitoes. This includes bird baths, bottles and any other items with water-holding capacity like old tires or trash.
  • Fill in holes, depressions and puddles in yards.
  • Keep gutters in proper working order.
  • Make sure door and window screens are in good condition.
  • Stay indoors between 4 and 8 p.m. when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors.

Next steps:

Prevent Zika virus in Kentucky with repellent.

What you should know about Zika virus this summer

Talk of the Zika virus is everywhere these days, and it has many people understandably worried. On Tuesday, UK HealthCare experts held a news conference to answer questions about Zika. The bottom line? If you’re here in Kentucky and aren’t planning to travel this summer, your risk of catching Zika is very low. But there are things you can do to be prepared in case that risk increases this summer.

“At the present time, the risk for infection is low for Kentuckians not traveling to areas with active Zika,” said Dr. Phillip Chang, UK HealthCare chief medical officer. “However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to provide updates and if locally transmitted cases are found in the U.S., the risk could increase.”

What is Zika virus?

The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites or through sexual contact with an infected person. Currently, virus transmission is happening in many Caribbean and Central and South American countries. Although many people who become infected have mild or no symptoms, pregnant women who contract the disease are at high risk for complications. Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a potentially fatal neurological disorder characterized by an abnormally small head.

Currently, the only cases in the U.S. have been travel-associated. But concern is growing about the possibility of travelers spreading it to mosquitoes in the U.S., which can then infect people who have not traveled to countries with the active virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the main carrier of the virus, can be found in the U.S. during the summer months, including Kentucky. This means that the Zika virus in Kentucky could be a real possibility.

“Currently, there is no anti-viral treatment and no vaccine for the Zika virus, so we are focusing on prevention and risk reduction and, if necessary, proper screening for our patients if Zika becomes a concern in the region,” said Dr. Derek Forster, UK HealthCare medical director for infection prevention and control.

Pregnant women and Zika

Since February, UK HealthCare’s obstetrics and gynecology clinics have been educating patients on the risks of Zika, particularly for pregnant patients or pregnant patients with partners who travel to these areas, said Dr. Wendy Hansen,chair of UK Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“We have been telling pregnant patients to postpone travel to areas with outbreaks of Zika virus, which currently is nearly all of Central America and much of the Caribbean and South America,” Hansen said. “We also are counseling and advising patients on what to do if they have partners that plan to or have traveled to these areas.”

According to current CDC guidelines, the following special precautions are recommended for pregnant women:

  • Pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika.
  • If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor or other health care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
  • Until more is known, pregnant women with male sex partners who have lived in or traveled to an area with Zika virus should either use a condom every time they have sex or abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy.

Precautions for everyone

While the Zika virus is most dangerous for pregnant women who risk complications, everyone is urged to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites during the summer months to prevent possible spread of the disease.

Precautions include:

  • Wearing protective clothes, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants. For extra protection, treat clothing with permethrin, a chemical that repels insects and kills mosquitoes and ticks when sprayed on clothing, tents and other gear.
  • Using an EPA-registered insect repellent every day containing one or more of the following active ingredients: DEET, PICARIDIN or IR3535.
  • Using screens on windows and doors, and using air conditioning when available.
  • Keeping mosquitoes from laying eggs in and near standing water near your home.

“Although these precautions are especially important for pregnant women and women of childbearing age who want to become pregnant, we want everyone to educate themselves on how to protect their family members and friends,” Hansen said.

Watch UK HealthCare experts discuss Zika virus below.

 


Next steps:

  • The CDC recommends that testing for the Zika virus be done for pregnant women who have recently traveled somewhere with active Zika or anyone who has traveled and has symptoms.
  • For the most up-to-date information, visit the CDC’s website.
What you need to know about Zika virus

What you need to know about Zika virus

Chances are you’ve heard about the Zika virus outbreak and its potential to cause birth defects and other pregnancy issues. Should you be concerned about the risk of infection for you and your loved ones? Unless you’ve recently traveled to an area where the virus has spread, the answer is no.

While it is unlikely to become infected unless you’ve traveled to an area where Zika has been reported, here’s what you should know about Zika virus.

What is Zika virus?

Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus, which is spread to people when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. The current outbreak of Zika virus has spread through the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Mexico, Samoa and Cape Verde. The illness is usually mild, so people may not realize they have the disease. If infected, symptoms will normally last several days to a week. Human-to-human transmission is rare but sexual transmission has been reported.

Symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Women and Zika virus

Women who are pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should take special precautions. Zika virus has reportedly been linked in Brazil to microcephaly, a condition that causes a baby’s head to be much smaller at birth and can also lead to intellectual disability.

If you’re pregnant, it is recommended that you not travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If travel is unavoidable, speak with your health care provider about your travel plans and discuss mosquito bite prevention methods.

What can I do to protect myself?

When traveling to countries where Zika virus has been found, practice mosquito bite prevention. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents is recommended. You should also stay in places that use air conditioners or window and door screens that keep out bugs.

Sexual transmission of Zika virus is of particular concern during pregnancy. Men who have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who also have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

If you have recently visited an area currently affected by the outbreak and have developed symptoms of Zika, please call UK HealthCare at 859-257-1000 or (toll-free) 800-333-8874.

For more information about Zika virus, watch a video featuring UK HealthCare experts.


Next steps: