Considering that it’s still officially winter, staying clear of mosquitoes seems like something out of place. But these annoying little creatures get a huge dose of attention lately, as they are associated with the scariest virus of the year (so far). Zika fever’s pathogen is carried by a mosquito called Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito), which only lives in subtropical and tropical areas.

What is Zika fever?

Zika fever is a disease similar to dengue fever, only much milder. About 80% of all infected people are asymptomatic, and the rest report fever, joint pains, headache and a rash. If you catch it, you’ll probably get away with a few days of bed rest, playing red flush online casino poker. But in case of pregnant women it’s thought to cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect.

Zika fever’s main route of transmission are the above mentioned mosquitoes (and possibly other species, living in cooler areas). The disease can also be transmitted sexually, and through blood transfusions.

How does Zika spread?

Zika’s main vector is the yellow fever mosquito, but the tiger mosquito is also thought to be capable of transmitting it. When an infected person or animal is bitten by a mosquito, the creature becomes a carrier. And the next animal – or person – to come in close contact with the creature can be infected, too.

How can I avoid being bitten by a mosquito?

As a general rule, long sleeved, loose clothing is the hardest for mosquitoes to penetrate. If your clothes are tight, these tricky little creatures can sting right through it. To make it harder for them to reach you, you can spray your clothes with a chemical or natural repellent.

Speaking of repellents: there are quite a few variants you can try. Chemical-based solutions are usually considered to be the most effective. But using them too often (or using too much of them) can cause a rash, or other forms of skin irritation. Besides, if you go swimming, keep in mind that some of them are washed down by water.

Plant-based, natural variations are also known, but are usually untested. Their effectiveness can vary from person to person. Some of these are also only effective against certain mosquito species.

When going to sleep, your best protection against mosquitoes is a mosquito net. Fixed above your bed, it surrounds it completely, blocking the creatures’ access to your skin. Just try to avoid sleeping with your body tightly against the net – mosquitoes can bite through that.

Mosquitoes are good at finding you in the dark. They lock on your body heat, the carbon dioxide you exhale, and even some of the bacteria that inhabit your skin. Being sweaty and wearing dark colours, like navy or black, will also attract them.

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