You've probably read a lot about Zika in the last few weeks. According to the World Health Organization, the virus is "spreading explosively." So what is it? And should you panic if you see mosquitoes in your apartment?
First, understand that up to 80 percent of those infected with the Zika virus, which is transmitted through mosquitoes, don't get sick. For others, rash, fever, joint paint and pink eye are common. Pregnant women are at the biggest risk, since babies born to infected women can develop called microcephaly, a serious birth defect that can result in a smaller-than-normal brain and skull.
But there's no need to panic in NYC, says Gil Bloom of Standard Pest Management. "If you were traveling to certain South American countries, you might want to worry, but we don't need to worry about that," he says. (In fact all cases of the Zika virus in NYC were found in people who'd recently traveled to South America or the Caribbean.)
"Zika is not being transmitted here," says Bloom. And while we do have the mosquito here that carries the virus—the Aedes mosquito—you need both the vector (the agent that carries the mosquito) and the disease to get the virus.
Also, the fact that it's the middle of winter means mosquitoes are not as prevalent as during warmer months. The warmer-than-average weather early this winter did mean that mosquitoes stuck around a bit longer than usual and there are "always have a certain number in steam tunnels and basements," says Bloom. But mosquitoes are nowhere near as prevalent now as they are during summer months.
And if the virus does come here somehow, the city will likely spray and put pesticides in the sewers , as they did with West Nile virus last fall.
"What is of concern is that in New York we used to have a mosquito called Culex, or the house mosquito, and that's what transmitted West Nile. In the last couple of years we've seen this Aedes (or Asian tiger mosquito) more and more and it has the ability to transport a certain number of diseases—in addition to Zika—such as dengue virus. It's also a daytime mosquito which makes it more annoying," says Bloom.
Last year, the New York Times ran a piece about keeping mosquitoes out of your apartment. And apparently the most affective deterrent is also the easiest to install: window screens.