As concern over the spread of the Zika virus in the United States grows, scientists are now warning of the possibility the virus may be transmitted not only by vaginal sex, but also by oral sex and even kissing.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study Thursday that “support the hypothesis of sexual transmission (either oral or vaginal) of ZIKV.”
“We cannot rule out the possibility that transmission occurred not through semen but through other biologic fluids, such as pre-ejaculate secretions or saliva exchanged through deep kissing,” the scientists concluded.
Zika has been linked to microcephaly and other neurological complications in fetuses. Symptoms of the virus in adults include fever, low energy, chills and a rash.
Dr. John T. Brooks, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The New York Times it s not out of the question that Zika could be transmitted by oral sex. But he also said he thought it was unlikely that the virus could be transmitted through kissing.
“Casual kissing has got to be safe because, if it weren t, don t you think we d see a lot more Zika? Every mom who kissed her baby would pass it on,” Brooks said. “To be sure, we d have to look for deep kissing in the absence of sexual contact, and that s hard to find.”
Although Zika has been detected in saliva samples, so far, there have been no documented cases of the virus being transmitted by saliva, according to scientists.
Zika transmission via sexual contact has been reported in the U.S., Canada, France, Italy and several other countries.
Public health officials warn that mosquitos carrying the Zika virus could start infecting Americans as soon as this month. Preventing mosquito bites at home should be at the top of every summer to-do list.
Although products derived from oils might smell better, they don t last nearly as long as synthetic chemical-based repellants like picaridin and DEET. If used as directed, products containing picaridin and DEET are safe for use by pregnant and even breast-feeding women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Except for oil of lemon eucalyptus, in our tests we didn’t find that any of the natural insect repellents worked very well,” Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports told WKTV. “None of them kept mosquitoes away for longer than an hour.”
Here are the top three picks for warding off the zika-spreading Aedes mosquitos, according to Consumer Reports:
• Sawyer Picaridin
• Ben’s 30% Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula
• Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
Each of the top picks contains a different key ingredient: picaridin, DEET and a derivative of eucalyptus. DEET, an active ingredient in many insect repellants, has been used since the 1940s. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DEET is safe for pregnant women and young children.
Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, on the other hand, should not be used on children under three years old. Insect repellant of any kind should not be used on babies under 2 months of age; instead small babies should be protected by a mosquito net placed around their infant seat or carrier.
Here’s the best way to use mosquito repellants, per the CDC:
• Spray or rub repellant only onto skin not covered by clothes (it’s not necessary to apply repellant under your clothing)
• Use just enough insect repellant to cover your skin; heavy application does not increase effectiveness
• Never use insect repellants on cuts, wounds or irritated skin
• Do not spray insect repellant directly onto your face – spray it into your hands and then carefully apply to your face
• Apply insect repellant after applying sunscreen
• After returning indoors, wash insect repellant off of your skin with soap and water or take a bath
Another way to protect your home from mosquito populations is to get rid of standing water. Birdbaths, flowerpots and clogged gutters all make for excellent mosquito breeding grounds.