Zika cases continue to mount as officials scramble to prevent infections.
The Virginia Department of Health is reporting two new confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the Northern Virginia area, bringing the total number of cases in the Commonwealth to 20.
Across the United States, 618 cases of the virus have been recorded, including 195 in women who are pregnant. All but eleven of those cases were reported to have been contracted through mosquito bites when the victims were out of the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have not been any reports of local transmission of the virus from mosquito bites in the lower 48 states.
Zika is a viral infection that is primarily spread through mosquitoes, but there have been cases where the virus has been transmitted through sexual contact. Both Aedes aegypti, Yellow fever mosquitoes, and Aedes Albopictus, Asian tiger mosquitoes, the primary carriers of the virus, can be found in the Virginia area.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent a Zika infection, although researchers are racing to find one before the summer season is in full swing and mosquitoes are common. The CDC recommends avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes as the best way to prevent becoming infected.
The agency recommends wearing light-colored clothing, with long sleeves and long pants whenever you can while outside, and to treat your clothing with permethrin, or purchase permethrin-treated clothes to wear. The CDC warns to never apply permethrin directly to the skin.
Also, whenever you are outside, use an EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, of IR3535 on any exposed areas of your skin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products and para-menthane-diol products are advised for children 3 and under. The CDC reminds that insect repellent should be re-applied after using sunscreen, and be sure to follow the instructions on the repellent label.
To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, empty any standing water in buckets, flower pots and vases, and replace the water in birdbaths regularly to prevent the insects from laying and hatching eggs in the stagnant water. The two types of mosquitoes that carry the virus do not tend to lay eggs in ground water, such a puddles and ditches, and are active during daylight hours as well, according to the Virginia Department of Health. They will enter through open doors and windows and will bite humans indoors, continued the department.
The CDC also advises people, especially pregnant women, who suspect they may be infected with the Zika virus, to contact their physician, and seek medical advice.