As the Zika Virus has gotten more and more attention from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the international media in recent months, the focus has shifted recently to prevention methods. This gave me the idea to create the following list in hopes of decreasing your chances of contracting the disease while traveling in Brazil or in any of the many other tropical countries which it proliferates …Zika Prevention, 7 Ways to Avoid Zika in Brazil.
First let me tell you that I have lived in Brazil since 2010, primarily in the tropical, northeast region that has been hardest hit by the Zika Virus, and where other mosquito born diseases such as Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya have been prevalent for many years. That being said, I am quite familiar with the conundrum of trying to enjoy the Best Climate in the World and at the same time alude the pesky and dangerous creatures in my day to day life. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect in the world and avoiding mosquitos is a part of life in many tropical countries. Zika has now reached 42 countries in the world and should reach the gulf coast of the United States next month. In response to the epidemic the Brazilian government has launched a campaign to eradicate the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which transmits the disease by educating the public to get rid of standing water around their homes where the species breeds. 220,000 troops took to the streets all over the country in February distributing flyers, spreading awareness and eliminating standing water. I believe these efforts will pay immediate dividends in reducing the number of cases, especially as the message is received in the poorer communities where the vast majority of transmissions have occurred. From my own personal experience and research, I will share with you some of the simple and lesser known methods to keep mosquitos away. Without further a due, here is the list, Zika Prevention, 7 ways to avoid Zika in Brazil
1.) Zika Prevention: Wind repels mosquitoes
Having lived in several different residences in the same neighborhood, I realized that the presence of mosquitos can vary greatly from one dwelling to another, even in the same 200 meter radius. This completely depends on the wind and air circulation in each location. When I lived in a location with a consistent breeze, I found there to be few to no mosquitos. While during my time in places with poor air circulation and little wind, the contrary was true.
2.) Zika Prevention: Fans repel mosquitoes
Using the same logic as the first recommendation on my list, if you are not able to stay in a location with a natural breeze, create it artificially by using an electric fan to repel mosquitos. Mosquitos are weak flyers and are not able to withstand winds of over 1.5 mph making it impossible for the mosquitos to reach you as long as you are in the path of the fan. The wind created also disperses the human emanations (sweat and carbon dioxide) that female mosquitoes use to zero in, making it more difficult for them to locate us. I personally use this method on a daily basis whenever I am in a location with less than perfect ventilation. I have found it works better than any commercial mosquito repellent.
3.) Zika Prevention: Height repels mosquitoes
Mosquitos prefer to fly close to the ground and very rarely fly above 7m (25ft). If your hotel happens to be in a high rise, ask to be on the 4th floor or above to avoid mosquitos. From my personal experience, in apartments that have been high above ground level, I have had zero issues with bugs.
4.) Zika Prevention: Socks protect you from mosquitoes
It is common sense that covering your entire body with clothing can prevent you from being bitten by mosquitoes. But as someone who actually lives here in tropical, northeast Brazil, I can tell you first hand, this is not something that anyone actually does or is going to do. It is 31C (85F) nearly every day of the year here. Given that fact, it is very unlikely that anyone is going to cover up in long pants or long sleeves to prevent mosquito bites only to then be sweaty, uncomfortable and miserable all day. I have noticed however that simply putting on socks drastically decreases the amount of mosquito bites that I personally get. This is because mosquitoes, especially the Aedes Aegypti species that transmits, Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya specifically target the ankles and feet. They have adapted to go for areas on the body where they are less likely to be swatted away or killed and the ankles and feet happen to be the farthest part of our bodies from our hands which kill them. They are smart little buggers! To summarize, yes, if you can put up with being uncomfortably hot all day, then by all means, wear long pants, long sleeves, a scarf and hat in the tropics…But if you are like me and don’t want to be dripping with sweat, just put on some socks!
5.) Zika Prevention: Air conditioning repels mosquitoes
Mosquitoes thrive in stagnate climates with poor ventilation, high humidity and temperatures over 27C (80F). Using air conditioning improves ventilation, removes humidity from the air and also lowers the overall temperature. All of these are characteristics that mosquitoes do not like and it makes them uncomfortable. Once the air conditioning is turned on and the room cools down, they will attempt to go back outside to the climate they prefer. If they are unable to escape the AC because of closed windows, at temperatures of around 18C (65F) they become less active and much less prone to bite. If the room reaches 10C (50F) it will put them into a dormant state.
6.) Zika Prevention: Natural Mosquito Repellent
I have always tried to avoid commercial mosquito repellents because I simply do not trust that harsh chemicals such as DEET are healthy for regular human use. However, the mosquito repellents with the highest content of DEET seem to be unanimously accepted by the scientific community as the most effective. I too have used these products from time to time with no noticeable side effects. On a more regular basis though, when I’m being bothered by mosquitoes, I opt to topically apply a combination of essential oils from Lemon and Eucalyptus that have been very effective for me. I have found that if you apply it every two to three hours, it is as effective as DEET, yet 100% natural, free of any harsh chemicals and also recommended by the CDC.
7.) Wealth Repels Mosquitoes
Although it is a bit depressing, your bank account may be your best deterrente of all against Zika. A disproportionately high number of Zika cases have been in poor neighborhoods. This is because the Aedes Aegypti mosquito breeds in the small amount of accumulated water in the tires, plastic bottles and other pieces of garbage that are strewn about in poor areas of the tropics. In addition to this, most residents in these communities don’t have screened windows or air conditioning to protect them when they are at home.
Our goal at BrazilVacation.travel is to create the perfect, custom Brazil vacation, tailor made to your unique preferences. That being said, to enjoy any experience to the fullest, staying healthy is essential and we will do our best to make sure of this. Although we can’t guarantee your good health in Brazil, chances are small that you would contract a mosquito born disease on one of our tours. This is because on your custom Brazil tour, depending on your tastes, you will be staying in upscale areas, in beautiful accommodations with breezy common areas and air conditioned rooms. Our transportation services are also completely air conditioned whenever available. Another factor is that in general, you will not be close to the communities where Zika is overwhelmingly transmitted and since the Aedes Aegypti mosquito’s flight range is only 400m (1300ft) from its birthplace this greatly limits your chances of being bitten.
For inspiration, please check out our personalized Brazil itineraries, for your dream Brazil vacation.