• By Deborah Balzer

Zika concerns after Hurricane Matthew

October 12, 2016

a man cleaning up storm debris with wheelbarrow
Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but standing water left behind has some along the East Coast worried about the possibility of increased cases of Zika virus. Mayo Clinic internal medicine specialist Dr. Vandana Bhide says, "Immediately following a hurricane, the mosquito population is probably going to be very low, because the wind and waters are going to remove adult as well as larvae mosquito breeding grounds." Dr. Bhide adds, "The problem after a hurricane, especially this recent hurricane, is there was a lot of flooding, so there is a lot of standing water and debris from people's homes. Many of those items can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes."

Watch: Dr. Vandana Bhide

There are precautions you can take to avoid mosquito bites. "It's important to avoid standing water," says Dr. Bhide. "Make sure any debris that is holding standing water is removed, so mosquitos don't breed there. We should continue to do mosquito bite prevention, including using repellant and wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. It's important to protect ourselves from mosquitoes."

"Typically, the mosquito population begins to die off starting in September so Aedes aegypti mosquistoes are naturally decreasing," says Dr. Bhide. "My hope is that we are going to see a decline now in Zika cases. The unknown is the flooding and the standing water. Initially, the mosquito population is decreased, but, ultimately, the concern is that, maybe, there are going to be more mosquitoes. It's too early to know right now."

The number of pregnant women with laboratory evidence with possible Zika infection as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • US States and DC: 837
  • US Territories: 1,638

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