First, the good news: The Zika virus is much less of a threat to the United States this year than it was in 2016.
The bad news: Zika-carrying mosquitoes are still in the United States.
The Texas Department of State Health Services announced that a person living in Hidalgo County, Texas, was most likely infected by a Zika-carrying mosquito while living in the state because he hadn’t traveled outside the area in the past several months. Officials aren’t worried about an outbreak, but advise local residents to stay cautious when outdoors and “be aware of the most common Zika symptoms: rash, fever, joint pain and eye redness,” the agency said in a statement.
The unidentified person is no longer at risk of spreading the disease.
Wisconsin officials also found a Zika-carrying mosquito in Waukesha County earlier this month, though there have been no reports of it infecting people.
“The detection of the Aedes albopictus mosquito in Waukesha County is not a cause for alarm. Several nearby states also have small numbers of these mosquitoes, where Zika virus has not been locally spread,” Ben Jones, Waukesha County Public Health Officer, told Fox 6.
What pregnant women need to know about Zika
Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in over 50 countries since the widespread outbreak in South America two years ago. Though mostly harmless in adults, the virus can pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, resulting in microcephaly, a condition where a child is born with a smaller-than-average head due to brain undevelopment.
At the height of the outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease control advised doctors to test pregnant women for the disease, but the agency recently relaxed guidelines and now advises doctors to only give Zika tests to women who exhibit symptoms of the disease.
That’s not to say pregnant women shouldn’t be vigilant against mosquito bites.
“In light of the updated recommendations that will likely reduce routine Zika virus testing of asymptomatic pregnant women with recent possible Zika virus exposure but without ongoing possible exposure, it is critical that pediatric health care providers inquire about possible maternal and congenital Zika virus exposure for every newborn,” Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, wrote in the updated guidelines.
How to protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases like the Zika virus
The Zika virus isn’t the only disease spread by mosquitoes. The annoying little insects carry others potentially-debilitating illnesses like Lyme disease and the chikungunya virus, among others.
It’s best to avoid the areas they like to congregate in, like standing water and tall grass, but they can show up anywhere. Protection is the best medicine — always load up with insect repellents approved by Environmental Protection Agency that are made with DEET, picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, IR3535 or 2-undecanone. You should also wear long sleeves and pants treated with permethrin for an added layer of protection, according to the agency.
Also, be sure to check out the CDC’s map of Zika outbreaks if you’re still planning a trip this summer.