The Miami-based global humanitarianism organization called, Malteser International Americas, has been on the front lines of the Zika virus outbreak in Columbia. Today, it released it’s fact versus fiction statement which expose five common myths surrounding the virus.
Malteser Americas has been on the ground in northern Columbia for the past two years where Zika has been threatening the lives of pregnant women, children and families. The relief organization was quickly in a position to launch a Zika Prevention Program as their presence has previously been established. They were effectively able to launch the program once it became a threat to already at-risk populations which included pregnant and nursing moms, newborns, and young children.
“Since February, we have been working diligently through our Zika Prevention Program to educate and protect mothers and their unborn children, as well as malnourished children in impoverished and drought-stricken communities in northern Colombia,” said Ravi Tripptrap, Executive Director, Malteser International Americas. “The recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control should not be taken lightly, especially with the current floods in the southern United States and the impending mosquito season, and families should take every precaution to prevent being bitten.”
Five Zika Myths Exposed
Myth #1: Zika mosquitoes are all over the United States.
Truth: No, they aren’t. Mosquitoes spreading the virus do not travel well, and do not like cold climates.
The Aedes mosquito is known as a weak flyer and can’t fly for more than 1312 feet. It is unable to travel from an infected region such as Latin America or the Caribbean to the U.S. It is possible for the mosquito to be transported from one location to another accidentally and the virus can be introduced to new areas.
At risk areas in the United States are primarily regions that have tropical or sub-tropical climates. There are few parts in southern U.S. where Zika carrying mosquito populations can exist in numbers that are high enough to support transmission. So far, no cases have been reported, but common sense precautions should be observed.
Myth #2: Zika mosquitoes are infecting U.S. citizens.
Fact: Zika mosquitoes have not bitten people in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control, as of April 13, 2016, have reported 358 cases of travel-associated Zika, but none have been acquired locally.
People exhibiting symptoms may have travelled to a tropical location and got bitten by an infected mosquito. The virus can also be transmitted sexually, through blood transfusions, or lab exposure. The CDC cautions people that they are at risk of sexual transmission from a male partner who has been in the area where Zika is present.
Myth #3: Zika mosquitoes are everywhere.
Truth: Zika mosquitoes are “afraid” of heights.
The mosquitoes spreading the virus do not reside in elevations about 6,500 feet. Travelers that are above this elevation have a low risk for infection.
Myth #4: Zika mosquitoes only bite women.
Truth: The mosquitoes are not discriminatory based on gender.
Both genders are targets for the virus. If traveling to a country where is virus is prevalent, take precautions. Men can carry the virus after being bitten, and women trying to become pregnant should avoid travel to these locations.
Myth #5: There is no way to avoid getting Zika.
Truth: Mosquito nets at night are advised as well as when resting during the day when the Aedes mosquitoes are most active. Using mesh screens on doors and windown whenever possible also help. Draining standing water or containers are also helpful in decreasing the population of mosquitoes.
It is advised to wear long sleeves, long pants or skirts. Cover as much of your body as possible. Use insect repellant that contains DEET (diethyltoluamide) or IR 3535 or Icaridin, the most common biologically active ingredients in insect repellents. Repellents must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions.
To learn more about the organization’s Zika prevention efforts, please visit www.orderofmaltarelief.org.