Zika Virus: Where And When To Worry About It : Shots - Health News Mosquito season is just getting underway in the U.S., and some areas have the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus. Pregnant women in places like Florida and Texas are at greatest risk.

Who Should Be Worried About Zika And What Should They Do?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mosquito season is upon us, including those that potentially transmit the Zika virus. Michaeleen Doucleff of NPR Science Desk has some tips on what you should be doing about that.

MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF, BYLINE: First off, whether or not you need to worry about Zika depends on where you live. Thomas Scott is an epidemiologist at the University of California, Davis. He has been mapping out where Zika is most likely to appear in the U.S.

THOMAS SCOTT: I think we need to be really careful about how we present this kind of information and what the risk is in various parts of the United States.

DOUCLEFF: Because, Scott says, a large part of the United States doesn't need to worry about Zika. That's the northern half - most of New England, all the way across to the Pacific Northwest. These states don't have the main type of mosquito that carries the virus. At the other extreme is the high-risk zone.

SCOTT: Really, what we're talking about - the really risk areas are Florida, the Gulf states and Texas.

DOUCLEFF: That's because the Gulf states and Florida have lots of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads Zika. What about the rest of the country, like the Mid-Atlantic states or California in the Southwest? Scott says that's a little trickier. These regions do have mosquitoes that can transmit Zika, but there's far fewer of them, so the risk this summer is very low in places like Washington D.C., Atlanta and San Francisco. But still, Scott says, if his wife were pregnant and lived in low-risk Washington D.C., he'd have her start taking precautions now, just to be safe.

SCOTT: Yeah. I mean, you just - you never know. And that is such an important thing. The outcome of this is really tragic. And so, you know, I think you want to make sure that you avoid that.

DOUCLEFF: Pregnant women and those trying to get pregnant face the most danger from Zika. The virus can cause severe brain damage in fetuses.

CATHERINE SPONG: Having Zika virus at any time during pregnancy is associated with risk for the developing fetus.

DOUCLEFF: That's Dr. Catherine Spong, the acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She says the second group who needs to be concerned are the partners of pregnant women because Zika can be transmitted sexually.

SPONG: Right. So if a couple is interested in getting pregnant, both of them need to take precautions.

DOUCLEFF: We'll get to those precautions in a second. The third group, Spong says, is one that hasn't gotten much attention - people who have weakened immune systems from an illness or a drug. They're more likely to have severe complications from Zika. And now the precautions - if you're in one of these groups, what should you be doing?

Scott Weaver studies Zika at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He says don't travel to countries where Zika is circulating. And when you're at home, avoid mosquitoes and wear long-lasting repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says DEET is fine if you're pregnant. And wear long sleeves and pants, even during the daytime.

SCOTT WEAVER: These are daytime biting mosquitoes. They're mosquitoes that like to enter people's homes.

DOUCLEFF: So Weaver says clean up your yard, especially if you live along the Gulf Coast, where the risk is highest. Keep it free of containers that hold standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

WEAVER: Can be something as small as a bottle cap - can have enough water for mosquito larvae to develop.

DOUCLEFF: Finally, Weaver says, know the enemy. Mosquitoes that can carry Zika have white stripes on their legs. Learn to recognize them and stay away. Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR News.

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