County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus and Commissioner of Health Dr. Eli Avila on May 23 announced the county’s comprehensive plan to protect residents from the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Zika affects parts of Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Zika virus cannot be spread by casual person-to-person contact. The symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually very mild and many people might not even realize they have been infected. Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent infection and no treatment for the Zika virus. Only one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, with fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes), the most common symptoms. There have been reports of increased cases of a birth defect known as microcephaly that may be associated with Zika virus infection among pregnant women.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently expanded its warning for pregnant women considering a visit to various destinations, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Orange County has had one case of Zika virus involving a resident who traveled abroad in January.
“At this time, there is virtually no risk of acquiring Zika virus in this region, but travelers to some foreign countries can be susceptible,” Neuhaus said in a release.
Orange County’s comprehensive, state-mandated Zika Action Plan includes mosquito surveillance activities, public education, mosquito trapping, testing and habitat inspections, and mosquito control.
To reduce the mosquito population around your home and property, residents are encouraged to reduce or eliminate standing water by:
- Disposing of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
- Drilling drain holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.
- Making sure that your roof gutters drain properly, and clogged gutters are cleaned.
- Turning over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Changing the water in birdbaths twice a week.
- Removing all discarded tires from your property.
- Cleaning vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
- Draining water from pool covers and removing leaves and debris as they collect on covers to reduce breeding areas.
- Using landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
- Aerating ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens are fashionable but become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
Personal mosquito protection is also important. “Residents should use EPA-registered insect repellents when outdoors and always follow the label instructions,” Avila said in a release. “Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks. Don’t sleep with your windows open, unless the windows have screens in good condition.”
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