Summertime is filled with picnics, day trips to the beach and nights under the stars. It’s also a season known for insects, bugs and mosquitoes.
Just the mention of mosquitoes is enough to put people on edge because of the Zika virus. It’s a growing concern. To date, much of the attention the Zika virus has received in the news has focused on pregnant women and the severe birth defects in babies born to women suspected of having the virus. While pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant are being advised to take precautions, including postponing travel to regions where the risk is high, what about older adults?
The Zika virus can make people sick for up to a week with generally mild symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes and headache.
It is estimated that 40 million Americans travel to Zika-affected countries annually. Given that there is no vaccine to prevent the disease or a drug to treat it, it is essential that people of all ages avoid mosquito bites if they travel to areas where the disease is spreading. The CDC has issued a travel alert for 14 countries and territories where Zika transmission is spreading. Know if you are traveling to a region where it’s necessary to take precautions, including:
- Remaining inside at dawn and dusk, the times of day when mosquitoes are most active
- Keep food and drink covered when eating outside
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved clothing
- Use mosquito repellent that protects specifically against the Aedes mosquito, the type of Mosquito that carries and spreads Zika virus. The Today show recently published an article with recommendations for the best mosquito repellents to ward off Zika virus. For older adults who are sensitive to the chemicals or smells that typically accompany repellents, there are natural ingredient repellents on the market that you can pick up in your local natural foods store or pharmacy
Medical researchers in Brazil are focusing on what happens to older adults who get the virus, including reports of infected adults suffering temporary hearing loss and vertigo. At this time it is not known if the damage will be reversible or if it will be permanent.
Authorities warn that the virus is likely to spread to some areas of the US. Here at home, you can manage the spread of mosquitoes by:
- Removing standing water in pools, pots and other containers
- Using window and door screens in your home
The US Surgeon General tells us that we’re learning more about this virus every day. For the latest information and resources on the Zika virus, visit the Zika page on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, or the website of the Boston Public Health Commission.
About Hebrew SeniorLife Outpatient Health Clinic
The health clinics within Outpatient Services at Hebrew SeniorLife offer high-quality, specialized care for Boston-area seniors. We offer a wide range of clinical services including treatment for conditions such as hearing loss, memory disorders, osteoporosis, difficulty with speech and language, chronic illness, rehabilitation and wound care. When you visit Outpatient Services, you'll be treated by experts who understand the unique health needs of older adults, working to improve each patient’s health and quality of life.