Health & Fitness

Young, old, male, female: Why Zika matters to you

The 1986 Harrison Ford movie “The Mosquito Coast” is about bringing ice to a fictional, insect-plagued Central American country, and things get a bit scary. These days, the phrase “mosquito coast” is more than a bit scary when you consider the Zika virus, spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, two of the 3,000 species of mosquitos that inhabit every part of the globe except Antarctica. The disease recently made its first inroads into North America in the Miami area, and Florida’s mosquito coast is 1,350 miles long.

In addition to its effect on fetal development, a rare side effect of the Zika infection is a neurological condition called Guillain-Barre, an immune system attack on the nervous system, triggering muscle weakness or paralysis. And now, examining the effects of Zika on lab mice, researchers have suggested that the infection may cause adults problems with memory and learning by infecting neural progenitor stem cells. Writing in the journal Cell, researchers make it clear that they don’t know for sure what long-term effects (on rodents or humans) the Zika virus may have, but indicate that everyone should take precautions against being infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that you use repellants (not for babies younger than 2 months) containing at least 30 percent DEET, Bayrepel, IR 3535 or 26 percent plus picaridan. If you have infants under 3, check specific recommendations at www.CDC.gov before applying. Remember to apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent. Consider wearing permethrin-treated clothing. And around the house, repair loose or torn screens and drain all standing water.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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