It’s all over the news: Zika virus and its effects in the U.S., but just how much do we have to worry about mosquito bites?
They dirty up your windshield, and their bites make you itch, but mosquitoes can be more than just pests if they’re carrying diseases. In both Illinois and Iowa, there’s been a handful of Zika virus cases. In illinois, there have been 16 cases, seven in Iowa.
Those cases don’t come from mosquitoes native to the continental United States. In other words, t’s not local mosquitoes causing the illness.
As of right now, there have been zero reported cases of Zika caused by local mosquitoes. On both sides of the river, experts say people who got Zika had recently traveled to another country.
In the midwest, mosquitoes are mainly just going to be a nuisance, but an Illinois Department of Public Health document says some mosquitoes can cause diseases like Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and in dogs, heartworm disease.
The Scott County Health Department’s Eric Bradley says West Nile Virus symptoms are a lot like cold or flu symptoms. If they get more severe, that’s when you should go to the doctor with your concerns.
When it comes to protecting yourself, health department officials say bug spray is the way to go. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends a spray with 10 to 25 percent DEET.
Some people prefer to stay away from DEET, saying it’s toxic.
Eric bradley from the Scott County Health Department says as long as you’re following the product label, you don’t have to worry.
“I’ve heard some stuff, but I don’t know of any studies that particularly say that it is a danger in the percentages that’s in the bugspray currently…That’s one of the major ones that’s recommended, you just need to follow the directions that are on the labels,” Bradley said.
Another way to protect yourself from bugbites is to wear long sleeves and long pants.
“The repellant’s probably one of the better ways to do it, you can also wear long sleeves, long clothes. Another major thing is to get rid of any standing water in your yard, whether it’s from bird baths, you know, swap them out every couple of days. When you’re going to be out, especially at dusk or early dawn, just you know, repellant, long sleeved clothes and pants, that’s the best way to keep from getting bitten,” said Bradley.
Health Department officials say mosquitoes are a problem starting in late spring. Sometimes they can last until October, depending on how hot and wet it is into the fall.