First we need to discuss exactly what it is and how it behaves. Zika is a virus that is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites. Because of this the spread of the virus has primarily been in tropical climates, but cases have been confirmed in the US. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus, by sexual intercourse, and by blood transfusion. The main concern with the virus is the transmission to a fetus which causes birth defects.
The scariest part of the virus is that for most people there are either no symptoms at all or they are very mild. This makes it very hard to diagnose. Noticeable symptoms include fever, rash, red eyes, joint pain, muscle pain, and headache. As you can see, these symptoms could be misdiagnosed as dozens of various ailments. The symptoms are rarely severe enough to require hospitalization and usually last a week or less. The real concern is with the transmission and effect on pregnant women. There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus.
How you can prep for Zika is to focus on mosquitos. You need to have means on hand to avoid them, repel them, and control them. There are actions you can take, products you can buy, and even things to do in a survival situation to avoid mosquitos. For most of our lives we have been fine with an occasional bite here or there, but those times are changing. We have to assume even one bite is a potential risk.
First we can discuss how to avoid mosquitoes all-together. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. This is the primary way you can avoid being around a heavy population. The biggest mistake people make is leaving rainwater to stand in uncovered containers. This could include buckets, wheelbarrows, kiddie pools, garbage cans, or that old rowboat by your pond. Make sure you regularly check your property for any containers holding water and dump them immediately. This is by far the biggest step to take in controlling the population in your area.
When avoiding mosquitoes you also need to try to avoid certain areas and situations. Ponds in particular are a breeding ground for these insects. If you can avoid ponds during warm months, it is highly recommended. That being said, any body of water can produce an increased mosquito population. You will always find more of them around lakes and even running water such as streams and rivers. All it takes is a stagnant cove or a side channel with a stagnant pool for them to breed. If you are going to be around water, you will need to take precautions. Also, mosquitoes are more active in the evening and at night. This is the peak of their activity, so take special care during these times.
Obviously staying indoors is the best solution. Air conditioning is a great defense as mosquitoes do not like the cold air. If you have to open your windows, make sure you have screens over them. Repair any holes in your screens immediately. When in the car, drive with your windows up. These are by far the easiest ways to avoid mosquitoes.
Proper clothing is a great way to avoid getting bitten. I know it can sometimes be uncomfortable, but wearing long sleeves and long pants is suggested even in the heat of the summer. This is one of the reasons why I almost always wear long sleeves and pants during my survival challenges. Any exposed skin can be a target for mosquitoes. Avoid sandals or flip-flops if possible and stick to socks and shoes. Wear a hat, and you may even want to consider netting for your face. There are several styles of hats you can buy with netting built in, or you can buy a separate head net. There are even nets that you can use to drape over a stroller, crib, or baby carrier.
Clothing can give your complete protection if you have the right gear. During my life raft survival challenge I was stuck on a boat in the middle of a pond for three days. This was also during the hottest weekend of the summer, which is peak time for mosquito activity. I did not have access to any products to repel mosquitoes and had no shelter to protect me.
I knew I could get devoured at night if I was not careful so I wore my standard long sleeves and long pants, but kept them breathable and lightweight. Other precautions were wearing socks and shoes, keeping a hat on my head, and wearing netting over my face in the evening and at night. I was able to make it through the challenge without a single mosquito bite.
If you need to be outdoors at night such as a camping trip, make sure you have several layers of protection. Your tent is your first line of defense. Make sure the tent is a secure enclosure such that the fabric or mesh has no holes or openings. If you end up with a tear in your tent, repair it immediately. If you must be outside the tent, stay by the fire. Smoke is an excellent deterrent for mosquitoes and staying by the fire is a good defense. You can also bring citronella candles and keep them lit to ward off any mosquitoes. If you have to sleep outside of a tent, bring a large net to drape over yourself. This will provide adequate protection from mosquitoes.
There are several repellents that you can purchase to help keep mosquitoes away. The most popular ones have an active ingredient called DEET. Each repellent has a certain percentage of this active ingredient. The higher the percentage, the stronger the repellent will be. However, you will also notice that higher percentages mean a strong smell and a greasy residue. You have to be cautious about using this spray on young children, but they do make child friendly versions.
DIY Mosquito Repellent
You can even make your own homemade repellent if that is your preference. One option is to mix either sunflower oil or witch hazel with lemon eucalyptus oil.
Mix one part lemon eucalyptus oil to 10 parts of either counterpart and spray on skin. If you prefer something with a really nice smell, you can make a lemon lavender spray. Add about 15 drops of lavender essential oil to a few tablespoons of vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. This concentrate can be added to water and sprayed on the skin.
Another simple option is to use cloves. Put 3.5 oz of whole cloves into a 16 oz bottle of rubbing alcohol. Let it sit for four days stirring once per day so the cloves infuse the alcohol. Strain out the cloves and add 3.5 oz of baby oil to your alcohol. Spray on your skin and you are good to go.
If you are in a survival situation and need a natural mosquito repellent, there are several plants that can help. These plants can be burned, rubbed on the skin, or just kept around your campsite. In the Western US sagebrush is an excellent option. This plant is wildly abundant in these areas, so it is easy to find yourself surrounded by it. Pineapple weed is another plant that is very common. With its bright yellow flower, it is easy to identify.
Wild onions can actually help with mosquitoes. These can be found all over the US with their hollow shoots sticking up above the other grasses. Lastly, cedar trees have a chemical that naturally repels mosquitoes. I sometimes will make my bed from cedar boughs or insulate my shelter with their branches. This gives me natural built-in mosquito repellent.
There are also non-spray repellents that you can try. Anymore there are a variety of repellents that are built into a bracelet or a necklace to avoid the greasy residue and smell. I have tried these but have had mixed results. Lotions and wipes are available that contain DEET. These will also help avoid the smell and oily residue. There are natural products for purchase that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus that can be used if you are opposed to chemicals.
Technology has come up with some interesting solutions for mosquito repelling and control. Everybody remembers the electric bug zappers from our childhood. They still work very well as the neon light attracts the mosquitoes and then kills them. This is really for overall population control, but it also helps in a specific area if you do not mind the sound. There are also ultrasonic devices that emit a sound wave to deter mosquitoes. You can purchase small units for personal use or large ones to protect your campsite.
Be cautious about other situations that could increase your risk of transmitting Zika. If you are travelling abroad to a warm climate, be even more cautious of mosquitoes. Some of the countries and territories that have or had reports of virus infections:
- The Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, US Virgin Islands etc.)
- Centra America (Costa Rica etc.)
- South America (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia etc.)
- …and, yes, The United States of America
Always take the time to pack any clothing or repellents you will need to stay protected. There are parts of the world where a huge percentage of the population has been infected. Also be cautious of sexual activity, especially if you or your partner are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. Either use condoms or avoid sexual activity altogether.
What should you do if you are diagnosed with Zika?
Your first priority is avoiding the spread of the disease. Warn anybody that was with you when you think you contracted it. Avoid sexual activity. As with most viruses, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take acetaminophen to help with any pain or fever. Do not take aspirin is it could complicate your symptoms. If you need to take mediation for other medical conditions, consult your doctor first. As stated before, the symptoms will usually pass in a week or less.
The Zika Virus is scary and for good reason. The media in particular has blown it up to be a pandemic that will consume the United States. Realistically that is not likely to happen, but caution is still a good idea. As with any aspect of survival or prepping, common sense is key. You know mosquitoes are the primary issue. Stay away from them, it really can be that simple. Now you have all the tools you need to make that happen, so you have no excuses.
The information in this article is provided “as is” and should not be mistaken for or be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician before trying any of the advice presented on this page. Always seek the help of a professional when delivering a baby. Neither the author nor www.SurvivalSullivan.com or the company behind the website shall be held liable for any negative effects of you putting into practice the information in this article.